Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Overwhelming and Overdue Humility: Uncanny X-men #32

The following is my review of Uncanny X-men #32, which was posted on PopMatters.com.

Society is willing to give certain people a pass when karma screws them over one times too many. We can’t help but have a certain amount of sympathy for someone who only goes to their high school reunion to beat up the bully that once tormented them. It’s that kind of sentiment that makes A Christmas Story and the Karate Kid movies so enjoyable.

On some levels, the X-men as a whole deserve that kind of sentiment. While every other comic book franchise is capitalizing on the success of their movies, the X-men are stuck carrying themselves like a kid with a black eye that Brett Ratner gave them nearly a decade ago. The growing prominence of every other comic book entity not controlled by Rupert Murdoch has made the X-men the superhero equivalent of henchmen to a James Bond villain. They lost Avengers vs. X-men. They lost their top gun when Wolverine died. And now some of them are being retconned out of the X-men’s world because Joss Whedon is at a point in his career where he gets what he wants.

While many prominent X-men characters have been hit by this shift, few have been tormented more than Cyclops. Ironically enough, Joss Whedon was the last writer to really understand that karma needed to take a breather from screwing Cyclops over. The man has lost two wives, he had to give up his son, and he had to make all the hard choices when Charles Xavier wouldn’t. And all the while, others like Captain America and Hank McCoy went out of their way to criticizing him while never once offering to help shoulder the burden.

But that still wasn’t enough. After Avengers vs. X-men, he lost his girlfriend, he went to prison, and now the team he did everything to save hates his guts. If anyone deserves to have a nervous breakdown and take it out on Wolverine’s grave, it’s Cyclops. He even has a chance in Uncanny X-men #32. While he manages to retain his sanity, he probably wishes he hadn’t because that probably would’ve made what happened easier.

This story puts Cyclops at rock bottom again. He was already at this point after the events of Avengers vs. X-men, but he somehow found a way to sink lower after the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier. He doesn’t just find out that the man he accidentally killed left him the Xavier Institute and all his money. He also finds out from a time-traveling Tempus that he fails miserably to stop a mutant from losing control and destroying everything he loves. It’s like finding out on the first day of his dream job that he not only fails. The job drives him crazy and eventually kills him. Unless that job involves being a Chuck Norris’ stunt man, it’s pretty jarring.

This leads Cyclops through a series of difficult and humbling moments where he has to stand in front of the mutants he’s been teaching and admit to them he failed. He then tries to explain in a calm, sincere manner that it would be better for them to join the Jean Grey Institute while he shut down the New Xavier School. Having left behind their old lives to join his revolution, it’s pretty hard to accept. It would be like Morpheus telling Neo they got the wrong guy just before he’s about to fight Agent Smith.

Since his students are immature teenagers who only recently learned the joys of fighting giant killer robots, they don’t take it well. Their hatred for him is visceral, even if he’s sincere in protecting them. They don’t even give Cyclops a chance to fully explain himself. It’s an emotional moment that shows how Cyclops, despite his shortcomings, was able to inspire these young mutants. Telling them to walk away, even if it’s for the better, requires that he be a glutton for punishment. It even knocks him out at one point. Since he’s dealing with superpowered teenagers, he’s lucky that’s all he suffered.

But the most defining moment for Cyclops came from Emma Frost. Any conversation with an ex-girlfriend is bound to be awkward on some levels, but there’s an extra dimension of emotion involved with these two. Once again, it’s Joss Whedon who is largely responsible for that. His influence is just that great.

During this conversation, Cyclops laments all the ways the X-men have failed to protect the mutant race. They really have tried everything, short of going on Oprah. They started their own country, they had their own asteroid for a while, and they try even tried to join the Avengers. It didn’t work. They’re still hated and feared while nobody seems to be protesting the Inhumans for some reason. It’s a perfectly reasonable observation, but one that doesn’t impress Emma Frost.

It’s Emma who basically pins Cyclops at rock bottom with lead bricks. She reminds him how much she cared for him and how much she believed in him. While he balks at any possible notion that they could be together again, she makes clear to him that he’s not in a right state of mind and hasn’t been for a while now. He’s gone from Peyton Manning to Ryan Leaf, having suffered a few nasty losses and losing his winning spirit as a result. At least he didn’t assault a reporter.

It’s this defining moment that highlights where Cyclops is and where he has to go. The events of AXIS and the Last Will of Charles Xavier finally sink in for him. And now that his still-inverted brother, Havok, has joined him, he has an opportunity to get back on track. That’s the core message in Uncanny X-men #32. It shows Cyclops overdosing on humility, having an intervention, and agreeing to get his life back on track.

It’s a meaningful, relevant story. However, it’s poorly organized in the sense that it doesn’t transition smoothly from one moment to another and it glosses over a few details. It also isn’t going to qualify for a pay-per-view event in terms of action. This story is all about personal drama and while some of it is overdue, most of it still feels meaningful.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Monday, March 30, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Amazing X-men #18

There are certain people who should never be given a certain kind of power. We all learned that the hard way through two terms of George W. Bush’s presidency. It’s not always an issue of power corrupting. It’s just an issue of bad combinations. Nitro on its own is fine. Glycerin on its own as fine. But when put together, shit can get pretty volatile. In that context, the power of Juggernaut is like weapons grade plutonium. There aren’t a whole lot of people who can or should ever have that kind of power. But some are less qualified than others.

Cain Marko was already horribly under-qualified during his stint as Juggernaut. So now that the power of Juggernaut is up for grabs again, the bar is set pretty damn low. That didn’t stop Cyttorak from trying to lower it even more when it called out to an army of known sociopaths to gorge on it. The X-men did their best to stop them, but in the end the Living Monolith was the lucky winner. As bad as Cain Marko was, making him the Juggernaut is like giving the Hulk nuclear weapons. It’s fucking overkill. But overkill can still be pretty damn awesome. Amazing X-men #18 is in a position to reinforce that while settling who gets to wear the goofy helmet. I guess all the unstoppable power in the world can’t overcome awful fashion tastes.

I won’t say the Living Monolith’s look as Juggernaut counts as an improvement, but it’s still pretty fucking terrifying. An average-sized Juggernaut was bad enough. A giant sized, Attack on Titan sized Juggernaut is overkill in a way that even Donald Trump would find excessive. He’s not just big. He’s armed with the unstoppable bloodlust of Cyttorak. He’s now powerful enough to tear the world a new asshole and make it constipated. It truly is a pants-shitting level of unstoppable, as it should be for any story involving Juggernaut.

The X-men are understandably shell-shocked. They entered this fight with the intention of preventing shit like this. Instead, they failed to stop the absolute worst case scenario that didn’t involve giving Blob a sponge bath. It’s as epic a failure the X-men have ever had without one of them being senselessly killed off. So how do they deal with it? How can they possible confront such an unstoppable threat? They’re not just going  to sit down over a camp fire and try to talk it out, right?

Well shave my balls, put makeup on my dick, and cast me in the next Pixar movie because that’s exactly what they do. Seriously, Storm decides to just sit down and lament. And it’s not over the fact they now have an overpowered Juggernaut to deal with. She laments about being in such a shitty mood lately. Ignoring for a moment that her lover just died, this is not a good time to dwell on shit like this. I was expecting someone to pick her up, but the rest of the X-men end up joining her. They even share fond memories of that special time when Storm shared Emma Frost’s fondness for nudity.

Look, I enjoy memories of a naked Storm as much as the next guy, but this is too much WTF for a crisis. I get that the X-men are overwhelmed by the threat of a Living Monolith Juggernaut. But this just really derails the plot. To be fair, Rockslide and Cain Marko point that out. It doesn’t make the volume of WTFs involved any less egregious.

Firestar actually starts a campfire while the Living Monolith is soaking in his new power and preparing to wipe his ass with the entire world. They just shrug it off while they review other overwhelming threats that they had to overcome. They all agree that none has been more powerful or sucked more ass than this. Sure, they’ve fought giant robots, but none of those robots had the power of the fucking Juggernaut.

They do eventually start spit-balling ideas, still managing to ignore the big ass Juggernaut just over the horizon. It makes me wonder why the fuck the Living Monolith doesn’t try to step on them like bugs. It’s like they’re daring him to come up with a way to stop him. Even with unstoppable power, that’s a dumb move. It’s not too dumb in the sense most of their ideas suck. However, it does give them a chance to address some of the personal issues that emerged at the beginning of the story. Storm was pretty harsh with Colossus in saying he should sit this one out. He disobeyed her, but she’s not in a mood to bust his balls. She ends up apologizing, but not before noting that he also had a nasty tendency to sacrifice himself when shit like the Juggernaut is involved. And after Wolverine’s death, they don’t need to deal with that shit again.

They keep on talking, going through more fucked up ideas like calling in Magik or asking the Scarlet Witch to help. Because it’s not like the Scarlet Witch hasn’t royally fucked up the Marvel universe on two separate occasions or something. I have to imagine at this point that the Living Monolith must be twiddling his thumbs or taking a piss because eventually, they do come up with a viable idea. And it doesn’t involve inversions, genocide, or getting seduced by Dr. Doom.

Colossus actually gets a little existential on Juggernaut, questioning his and Cyttorak’s motivations. He starts to sound like one of those hippie protesters that whine about rampant consumerism while waiting six hours in line to get a new iPhone, but he does make a valid point. Cyttorak gives power to Juggernaut because he wants destruction and chaos. But to what end? Has anyone even bothered to ask this question? Has Cytorrak ever asked himself this question? I know it sounds like I just had a few extra shrooms, but it’s not a bad question to ask.

It actually makes the idea of sitting around a camp fire and thinking about this shit have merit. It takes away some of the WTFs in that it produces something that’s genuinely worthwhile. They all agree that the key to stopping Juggernaut is to get Cytorrak to reassess his goals. They’re basically going to try and be a guidance counselor to a rebellious teenager. That’s only slightly less daunting than taking on the Living Monolith.

The X-men then finally get up off their asses and start doing something about this. While Colossus agrees to confront Cytorrak, most of the X-men decide to battle the Living Monolith. They figure he’s done twiddling his thumbs and is ready to start crushing shit. The battle is on a fairly epic scale and it’s got plenty of firepower with Storm, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Firestar, Northstar, and Rockslide. It’s still horribly one-sided though. They know they’re not going to stop a Juggernaut-powered Living Monolith. They just need to keep him occupied and not get killed. It’s still a basic tactic for the X-men in a Juggernaut fight, but it’s a classic for a reason.

While the X-men Living Monolith are now finally doing something meaningful, Colossus gets help from Rachel Grey and Pixie to call upon Cyttorak. He’s not exactly happy to see his former champion. He seems perfectly happy to have a new champion that happens to be the size of a skyscraper. Hell, I’m surprised he doesn’t have a full-on rage boner. But then Colossus starts asking him the same existential questions he asked his team earlier. Cain Marko is even there with him. Like a Jehovah’s Witness trying to convince a teenage boy to stop looking at internet porn, he tries to get Cyttorak to think about his next failed champion. It’s not entirely wrong, given his perfectly imperfect track record. And unlike Jehovah’s Witnesses, he doesn’t just slam the door in his face or turn the garden hose on him. So I guess the question resonates.

This might be the perfect opportunity to set Cyttorak down on the couch and help him have a nice Dr. Phil moment that he can later tell Oprah. Then Colossus gets a little too bold and offers a different challenge. He dares Cyttorak to give him more power than he’s ever given any one of his champions before. He then says he won’t use that power to cause chaos and destruction. He’ll use it to kill Cyttorak. First, let me just say that the universe isn’t big enough to contain Colossus’ balls anymore. Let’s get that out of the way. Second, this is either the craziest dare made since A Christmas Story or the smartest.

Cyttorak must be either crazy or dumb because he accepts Colossus’ challenge. It’s actually a pretty amazing moment. The X-men aren’t just out to fight Juggernaut this time. They’re out to stop him at the source. They’re not fighting the symptoms anymore. They’re fighting the disease. It is a change to the classic formula that past Juggernaut battles have followed, but it’s a meaningful change. It took a while to get to it, but it’s starting to feel like it really has worth to it.

It succeeds in one key part. It removes the power of Juggernaut from the Living Monolith. That’s one huge problem solved. It’s a visceral, powerful moment that involves the Living Monolith getting knocked flat on his ass. Even though he didn’t get a chance to do a whole lot of damage as Juggernaut, it’s still pretty damn satisfying. If only he hadn’t been twiddling his thumbs while the X-men contemplated a way to screw him over, his defeat might have more impact. But he was already a douche before he became Juggernaut. Kicking his ass at any stage is still satisfying.

The only problem is that Cyttorak decided to take a page out of Darth Vader’s playbook and change the deal. Instead of giving this power to Colossus, he decided that he didn’t trust giving an X-man all that power. He must have read the original Phoenix Saga and knows it doesn’t end well. So instead, he gave Cain Marko the power he was going to give Colossus. Now Cain Marko has to be the one to destroy Cyttorak, if he still gives a shit at this point. Again, it’s both crazy and brilliant. Even if Cyttorak loses, Cain Marko is still unstoppable and the X-men are fucked. I’m guessing this means he can look forward to another massive rage boner.

Before this issue even began, it had a pretty epic foundation to build from. It was X-men versus Juggernaut. It’s right up there with Wolverine in a dick-measuring contest with Cyclops in terms of classic X-men themes. So far, the story has utilized a pretty basic yet pretty compelling method for carrying out this classic struggle. A new Juggernaut is about to emerge and the X-men try to stop it. But in this issue, the X-men dared to try a different approach. In a world where people riot over changes to the Coca Cola recipe, that can be dangerous. And I think what the X-men did here worked, at least in part.

I admit the idea of the X-men sitting around a camp fire and lamenting how fucked they are while a hulking Juggernaut rampages doesn’t appeal. It’s like watching Jerry Springer without any fights or strippers. It was one of those WTF moments akin to watching a couple of cops play Candy Crush on their phones while a gang war is going on. I understand that some cops won’t respond to anything that doesn’t involve giving out bullshit traffic tickets, but I hold the X-men to a higher standard. At least with this issue, they did get their shit together. And by finding another way, they actually made this classic struggle more intriguing. It took a while and it dragged like my dick on a hot summer day at a baseball game, but there was a solid payoff in the end. And it did offer a few revealing moments for certain characters. I give Amazing X-men #18 a 6 out of 10. I truly do wish that problems could be solved with a camp fire and a cooler full of beer. And I see the merits of taking a moment to think about dealing with a recurring problem. But like masturbation, there’s a time and a place for everything and it can get pretty damn awkward when people try it in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nuff said!

Friday, March 27, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue #117: Fate and Uncertainty is LIVE and X-23 Pics!

Throughout the history of X-men, there have been cycles of progression and regression. For a time, the X-men seem to make strides in achieving Professor Xavier’s goal of peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. Then something comes along to undermine that progress. At other times, something comes along to completely divert the X-men’s attention from this goal in the first place. I’ve had the X-men face more than a few distractions in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, but I’ve always tried to give them a sense of progression. I want the X-men to evolve in this fanfiction series in a compelling way. That means dealing with the consequences of a major event.

The Weapon Plus arc was a major event by any measure. It closed another dark chapter in the history of Weapon X, an enemy that has already done a great deal of damage in the world of X-men Supreme. This time, it ended with Colonel John Wraith dying at the hands of his latest living weapon, Fantomex. It also ended with Graydon Creed being arrested and Reverend William Stryker going on the run again. It also gave General Grimshaw’s vision for policing mutants with the Mutant Security Agency some much needed credibility in the eyes of President Kelly. However, the damage left by Fantomex will lead to plenty of shifts throughout X-men Supreme.

I intend for those shifts to lead to progress on many fronts. This fanfiction series had guided numerous characters through many upheavals. Even before X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths began, Wolverine faced more upheavals than most. He hit rock bottom after breaking off his relationship with Storm and finding out he had a clone of him running around named X-23. In recent times, he’s been pulling himself back up again. In defeating Weapon Plus, Wolverine is now in a different place with this fanfiction series. His life and that of X-23’s will never be the same.

Other characters also face significant upheavals. Sage finally had to confront her past with Sebastian Shaw, leaving an indelible impact on her relationship with Beast. Rogue crossed paths with Isaac from the Church of Humanity, an organization that will have a major role later on in this fanfiction series. All these upheavals unfold at a time when other threats are still looming. Some of those threats are going to come into play very soon in X-men Supreme and that process continues in this issue.

X-men Supreme Issue 117: Fate and Uncertainty

In addition to the closure and aftermath of the Weapon Plus part, the time had come to give X-23 a place in the pics section. I know I introduced X-23 at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear, but I wanted to wait until she established herself in X-men Supreme before I gave her a section of her own. After her battle against Fantomex, I'd say she's more than done enough. She's now a part of the X-women section and I proudly establish a new section for her here on the X-men Supreme official website.

X-23 Pics

X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths is entering a critical stage. The final conflict for this era of this fanfanfiction series is in sight. As such, the future of X-men Supreme is still in question. I still haven’t decided if I’ll continue. I certainly would like to. I have plenty of ideas for more progress in the world of X-men Supreme. Feedback has been good. Commenters like Bumlinger have been very generous. But I need more feedback to ensure that I’m doing quality work with X-men Supreme. Please take the time to post your comments on this fanfiction series. Either contact me directly or post it directly in the issue. Either way is fine. I’m always willing to chat X-men. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy #25

Cosmic power in the Marvel universe is like tequila. It’s incredibly potent and can make all sorts of wonderful shit happen. But it’s also extremely easy to abuse and can cause a world of pain. In the same way most people can’t handle tequila, most can’t handle cosmic power either. And something like the Black Vortex is akin to making tequila more potent while tasting as good as a chocolate milkshake with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles on top. There are very few ways that shit can’t be abused to a horrible degree. And so far, the Black Vortex crossover has done plenty to make the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy swear off cosmic power and tequila for the foreseeable future.

However, they haven’t quite reached the point where the nasty hangover kicks in just yet. They’re still in the midst of the kind of cosmic bar fight that usually ends with cracked skulls and multiple concussions. Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel have already caused the kind of mess that’s usually reserved for a Spring Break holiday in Cancun by a bunch of frat boys armed with Donald Trump’s credit card. At some point, the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy have to play the part of the asshole bartender that cuts them off. Guardians of the Galaxy #25 takes them one step closer to that nasty hangover, but it also shows that they would probably make shitty bartenders.

That hangover can’t come soon enough for Hank McCoy. This is a guy who has been drunk on his douche-baggery for way too long. He’s so smart, but he can’t see the omega level asshole he’s become. He bitches about Cyclops, but offers no solutions. He whines about tapping immense power, but fucks up the space-time continuum to bring the O5 X-men back from the past. If his hypocrisy were any worse, Ted Haggard would try to buy meth from him. At some point, he has to see how badly he’s fucked up. Well that time has finally come. It just took cosmic level power for him to do it. That’s both ironic and hypocritical.

He laments to Gamora how he stuck his dick in the sadistic bitch that is hypocrisy, thinking he was doing the right thing. And just like Cyclops, the guy he can’t stop bitching about, he thought he could handle the power and the responsibility. Now that he has the power of the Black Vortex, he realizes he’s fucked. Even with cosmic power, he can’t undo the damage he did. It’s still too late to make him less of an asshole, but that doesn’t make this any less refreshing. Like someone lost in the desert, this feels like a nice cold beer. It’s still not enough, but it’s more progress than Hank McCoy has had in years.

Beast’s overdue humility still doesn’t help the friends he’s screwed over. A team of X-men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nova attempted to get to Hala to retrieve the Black Vortex from Ronan. They arrived on a planet that Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel did a damn good job of fucking up. And Ronan even got in on the act, using the Black Vortex for himself and deciding to give the finger to his home world as well. I guess he understands that he has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to reach Hank McCoy’s level of douche-baggery. The X-men and the Guardians understand this and they want to use the Black Vortex to return their friends to a state that’s slightly less overpowered.

It’s a perfectly reasonable request. It’s in the universe’s best interest to have fewer cosmic-powered assholes running around. So of course the Supreme Intelligence tells them to piss off. He’s okay with just sealing it away and using the Kree’s might to subdue these cosmic-powered renegades. That has some merit on some levels. And by that, I mean it has as much merit as a war plan organized by Dick Cheney. But it’s at least somewhat balanced. That’s something this whole story has been pretty good at maintaining, even when characters like Ronan and Beast are involved. That alone is quite an accomplishment.

Balance or not, the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy aren’t inclined to be overly diplomatic. They came expecting to resort to Jack Baur’s tactics, knowing that the Supreme Intelligence was never going to be overly generous. So Starlord decides intelligence is overrated and starts shooting while Nova takes the Black Vortex. It makes for a pretty epic escape, complete with Captain Marvel punching the Supreme Intelligence in the face. For her, that’s like me kicking my old gym teacher in the balls. It’s just that satisfying.

It’s also satisfying to see Nova finally do something meaningful. His presence in this story was a bit forced, but he’s finally found a way to contribute. He’s still an immature kid who has seen Indiana Jones one times too many, but that only makes his battle against the Kree Accusers more entertaining. I’ve never been much of a Nova fan because he comes off as the teenage Peter Parker that Andrew Garfield failed to be, but I will give him credit here. Any kid who can go up against the Kree and pwn them appropriately deserves respect.

Nova’s efforts to escape with the Black Vortex are still dependent on the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s ability to keep the Supreme Intelligence from using Nova as chewing gum. They have to take part in another epic battle in a story that has already had plenty. But like a nap on a beach in Maui, it’s one of those things that’s hard to overdo.

The battle is intense, but brief. However, it’s not rushed because it’s brief for a damn good reason. Even though the X-men and the Guardians are surrounded by Kree Accusers and a very pissed off Supreme Intelligence, they still have O5 Jean Grey on their side. That’s like bringing the Death Star to a knife fight. They have the edge. And O5 Jean even uses this as a chance to exercise the powers she gained during her last adventure with the Guardians of the Galaxy, turning the psychic energy around her into an unstoppable wave of pants-shitting awesome. The Supreme Intelligence is the lucky one here because it doesn’t wear pants, but I’m sure it wished it did.

With the Supreme Intelligence down for the count, the X-men and the Guardians can escape. They just have to trust that Nova found a way to escape with the Black Vortex. That’s right. They trust that an immature teenager who only recently got access to the power of the Nova corps can protect the Black Vortex from the Kree. That’s like trusting Russian teenagers with a crate of grenades and an unlimited supply of vodka. It’s not going to work.

The result is somewhat predictable. Nova eventually does fuck up, but it’s not from the Kree. One of the Slaughter Lords that had been sent to Hala to retrieve the Black Vortex for Mr. Knife finally joined the party. Since the Kree couldn’t get the job done, he decides to show them how it’s done. I hope the Kree took notes. Nova is the one who gets pwned this time and he doesn’t have the luxury of a pissed off Jean Grey to back him up. So while he did show some competence against the Kree, the Slaughter Lords remind us that he’s still a teenager.

But neither the Slaughter Lords nor Mr. Knife are content to just rough up some whiney teenager and take the Black Vortex. That just seems too half-assed. Mr. Knife decides he has to go the extra distance to prove he’s now the biggest asshole in the universe, leapfrogging Hank McCoy and Iceman by several light-years. To do that, he decides to turn his ship on Hala and finish what Beast, Gamora, and O5 Angel only started. He destroys the whole fucking planet.

It’s not clean or swift like the Death Star either. Mr. Knife is the kind of asshole who likes to rip the wings off a bug and torture it for a while before he crushes it. He bombards the planet with missiles, so much so that he rips out a chunk of the planet. It’s every bit as epic as it sounds and then some. It forces the X-men and the Guardians, as well as most of the Kree, to get the fuck off that planet as if it were the site of an upcoming Justin Bieber concert. It shocks even Starlord, who already knew his father was an asshole, just not on this scale.

Now it was a given that a few planets would get fucked up during this story. Any story involving cosmic-powered characters is bound to rearrange a few solar systems. But Mr. Knife did this shit without the aid of the Black Vortex. He just had to be a total douche-bag with a big ass ship and a complete disregard for life in general. It’s another example, albeit terrifying, of the balance this story has maintained. But that only adds to the overall awesome.

Mr. Knife has now firmly established himself as the last person in the universe who should have the power of the Black Vortex. He doesn’t just order the destruction of Hala. He takes pleasure in it like a guy jerking off to animal porn. He paints it as a good thing for the galaxy, although he doesn’t hide that he blames the Kree for him losing his world. So there’s also an element of vindictive douche-baggery at work here, as if he needed.

The thought of this guy having the Black Vortex should make the universe as a whole shit itself. And for a moment, it looks like he has it. The Slaughter Lords roughed up Nova and took it. They should be preparing for the party when Mr. Knife takes a big cosmic shit on the ruins of Hala. However, one of them reveals they lost the Black Vortex. It’s not entirely clear how it happened, but it is revealed that it’s still with Nova. Somehow he managed to wrestle it away when he wasn’t busy looking like an immature teenager. It’s a bit of an oversight that could be easily addressed in another issue. Or it could just be one of those cases where an immature teenager gets lucky. If it’s ever going to happen, it should happen at a time like this to keep an asshole like Mr. Knife from getting the Black Vortex.

The problem is the Black Vortex is still out there and it’s still vulnerable for any cosmic asshole to exploit. That’s why Magik and Rocket Raccoon were tasked with finding Gamora, Beast, and O5 Angel and hope they’re not too drunk on cosmic power to help. Even they have to agree on some levels that keeping Mr. Knife away from the Black Vortex is in everybody’s best interest.

There’s some funny moments with Rocket Raccoon, but there’s also a meaningful conversation here. There have actually been many of those in a story that has already blown up a planet so that’s saying something. Magik uses her experience with being Dormammu’s mystica; prison bitch to relate to Gamora’s plight. I won’t say it’s a perfect analogy, but it does speak to the same themes of dealing with overwhelming power. And that’s something they’re all dangerously close to failing at.

Then they pick up on the destruction of Hala and now there’s some fucking urgency to not fail. And since cosmic power wasn’t even used to destroy it, Gamora and Beast decide it’s time to stop waving their cosmic-powered dick around and help their friends. It’s another small step towards Hank McCoy’s long road to being likable again. He still has a long fucking ways to go. If it takes the destruction of a whole planet for him to get his shit together, then it might not be worth it.

Even so, Mr. Knife is already going in the opposite direction and he’s well on his way to surpassing Beast’s douche-baggery at an exponential rate. He might not have the Black Vortex, but he does have a few hostages. The Slaughter Lords were able to take O5 Cyclops, O5 Iceman, and Groot prisoner when their teammates were escaping Spartax. Now Mr. Knife wants to use them as bait to get the Black Vortex back. He also makes sure to inform them that he just blew up a planet and got a big fucking boner while doing it. He then makes clear he’s willing to do that to Earth while the surviving Kree give him a hand-job. It’s a fucked up situation that even Groot can’t sufficiently articulate. I get it, Mr. Knife. You’re a bigger asshole than Beast now. I concede. This issue makes that abundantly clear in the most awesome possible way and ensures more planets could blow up before this is over.

When the Black Vortex crossover started, I think everybody got the impression that this was the comic book equivalent of an NFL preseason game. It was meaningless filler meant to bridge the gap to the regular season, which in this case I guess would be Secret Wars. But somehow, the Black Vortex has found a way to be awesome on a truly epic level. It couldn’t be more proficient without being a star quarterback married to a Brazilian supermodel. This issue truly reinforced the epic scale of this story. A fucking planet got blown up and not in the casual Phoenix Force kind of way either. It was a massive, Independence Day style attack that hit all the right emotions without being derailed by a Will Smith character.

Any crossover story can start strong. I’m sure Battlefield Earth felt interesting to some during the first five minutes. But Black Vortex keeps finding a way to build momentum. It’s getting so many great characters involved. The X-men, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Starjammers, and even Nova are all finding a way to be awesome in their own right. The struggle keeps taking new turns. Some are personal and way fucking overdue, as with everything involving Hank McCoy. Some are just epic in a way that blows up half a fucking planet. Mix that shit together and it’s like Jack and Coke. It’s a beautiful, potent combination that’ll get people fucked up in all the right ways. I give Guardians of the Galaxy #25 a 9 out of 10. Fuck the preseason. This story is a playoff contender now. Just hope that it doesn’t fail to complete the process of making the catch or it can end badly. Just ask Dez Bryant. Nuff said!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #32

For some characters, it's a challenge to give them the benefit of the doubt. Some just don't have a good track record of not finding a way to fuck it up. But if ever a character deserved a mulligan or two on his fuck-ups, it's Cyclops. I know there are a vocal contingent of fans who hate his guts and everything he does. First they said he was boring. Then they said he was a total douche. They basically treat him like Michael Bay, always finding flaws in everything he does despite being an undeniable success. I tend to think these fans are in need of better weed. But come on, this is a guy who lost two wives, a son, and a father figure. Yet he still tries to lead the X-men as best he can, even when everybody hates his guts. How can anyone not respect that on some levels? The Hank McCoys of the world being the lone exception.

The Last Will of Charles Xavier brought out the worst in Cyclops. Sure, it got retconned in the end, but it showed just how capable he is of fucking up when the going gets tough. The problem is that nobody else is willing to offer an alternative so he still gets the blame, no matter what. Now he has Xavier's will and the shit storm caused by AXIS to deal with. So he's already half-screwed before he does anything at this point. But Uncanny X-men #32 is a chance for him to show that he can still be the leader the X-men need him to be, even if it makes the Icemans and Beasts of the world violently ill. Whether he'll fuck that up too remains to be seen.

At the very least, Cyclops can at least say that his own brother isn't in the same camp as Iceman and Beast. One of the many consequences of AXIS that nobody has bothered to address since it ended was that Havok stayed inverted. He didn't go back to being the guy who shined Captain America's boots and lectured people about the politically correct way to use the word "mutant." If we all wanted that, we'd listen to Al Sharpton. Instead, his inversion led him to joining his renegade brother's mutant revolution. It's the kind of brotherly love that we haven't seen from Cyclops and Havok since Brett Favre was still flip-flopping over his retirement. But it's a little too late.

While Havok reuniting with Cyclops does help give a big middle finger to the Avengers and their bullshit unity team, it also happens to come at a time when the shit storm caused by the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier is still settling down. It makes no fucking sense from a chronological and logistical point. First, they were dealing with Charles Xavier's will. Then they were dealing with the Scarlet Witch's inversion spell. Now maybe there was some time between Havok leaving the Uncanny Avengers and him joining Cyclops that would make this slightly less contrived. But nobody likes making assumptions in a world where marriages and family ties can be retconned so it still feels forced. Even so, it's still a meaningful moment in that it re-establishes a connection between Cyclops and Havok.

That heart-warming moment doesn't really last because it happens to come on the same day Cyclops basically shut down the New Xavier School. Just a few hours before Havok arrived to admit that the Avengers are assholes, Cyclops gathered his students and told them about his decision. He calmly and kindly explained to them that he's going to help transfer them to the Jean Grey Institute where they can get the training and education they need. He even assures them they'll be safe there. He probably even mentioned Storm is there to protect them. How the fuck could that not appeal to them?

It sounds so reasonable and sincere. Naturally, they all tell Cyclops to go fuck himself. As with most teenagers who receive reasonable and sincere advice from an adult, they get fucking pissed. Now most of their reactions make no fucking sense. They bitch and moan about how they left their homes to fight alongside him. Sure, they never mention the part where Cyclops never forced them to join, but they're teenagers. That would be too reasonable. But they still have a legitimate reason for being pissed. They agreed to follow this man. They supported him even when he fucked up. Now he's telling them they have to go to another school. And for teenagers, being sincere and having a damn good reason just isn't enough. It's like arguing with a vindictive ex-girlfriend. Reason and sincerity just won't cut it.

Cyclops' inverted brother ends up being much more understanding. And seriously, that should say a lot about the teenage characters in this series. Havok, after sleeping off the effects of being horribly scarred and inverted during AXIS, wakes up to find that Cyclops is planning on turning himself in. He's going to take the blame for the death of Charles Xavier. Sure, the Scarlet Witch isn't going to take the blame for M-Day and Wolverine never took the blame for killing his son. But that's a technicality that only those with overpaid lawyers can afford.

It makes for another nice moment between brothers. It's also a complete reversal for Havok. At the beginning of Uncanny Avengers, he and Hank McCoy were joined at the hip in the "We blame Cyclops!" fan club. Now he's telling his brother that it was an accident. He was not fully responsible. Maybe this can be attributed to the inversion, but even Mitt Romney would be taken aback by this kind of flip-flopping. It still makes for a very nice moment where the two brothers reconnect. It also is a nice moment of humility for Cyclops. And after the shit he did during the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier, he fucking needed it. I won't say he completely balances out, but he comes pretty damn close.

Even so, the students of the New Xavier School don't give a shit. Goldballs even expresses his discontent by knocking Cyclops out. It's only slightly less healthy than bitching and moaning on a message board, but it helps convey the sentiment of Cyclops' students. It's pretty intense, as it should be. Emma, Illyana, and Kitty Pryde even show up. They only slightly more reasonable. And Illyana and Kitty Pryde end up just leaving. I guess that's still healthier than the way Goldballs reacted, but it makes for a chaotic yet dramatic situation.

There's a lot of anger. They keep asking for an explanation, but they don't give Cyclops a chance to give it to them. They'd rather storm off and be pissed. I'd expect that from Hank McCoy a 13-year-old girl whose parents refused to buy them an iPhone, but not from X-men or mutant revolutionaries. In that sense, they'll probably fit right in at the Jean Grey Institute because I'm sure Hank McCoy will help nurture their irrational Cyclops hatred.

Eventually, Emma Frost confronts Cyclops privately and she does it fully clothed. That's how he knows she's serious. She yells at him too, but in a much more constructive way. That alone makes her the most reasonable ex-girlfriend in the history of the Marvel universe. She still reminds him how he begged her to join him even after they broke up and she barred him from ever seeing her naked again. She reminds him how she went along with him, even when she had so many reasons to strap him to a chair, shove a dildo in his mouth, and make him watch her bang Namor until the next full moon. It's a nice little refresher course on the emotional toll these two have taken on one another, but it has a meaningful point and she doesn't even have to flash her boobs to make it.

Emma finally gives him a chance to come clean and explain what he hoped to do with this mutant revolution, which is way more than any of his students gave him. And the answer Cyclops gives is both telling and pretty damn compelling. He lists all the ways that the X-men have tried to realize Charles Xavier's dream. They tried being heroes. They tried fighting alongside the Avengers. They tried starting their own country. They tried damn near everything. And he rightly points out that all that shit has failed.

He's not blowing pot smoke at a sick dog either. First there was Genosha. It became the site of mass genocide and later, it was the site of a Nazi concentration camp. Then, they tried Utopia because Norman Osborne was a massive prick. The Avengers ended up invading that shit and it all went downhill from there. All the while the X-men kept trying to work alongside humans and all it ever got them was a middle finger and a proverbial "fuck off." What else could they have done?

What Cyclops lays out feels like a natural, albeit desperate progression. He made his revolution out to be a threat to tell the world to knock this shit off. One genocide should've been enough, but mutants still keep getting all this crazy shit that leads cops to shoot innocent mutants for no reason, as Hijack found out recently. With Charles Xavier dead, it felt like the dream really was dead as well. And Cyclops' desperation really drove him this time. It wasn't out of anger or malice. It had a legitimate point. At this point, only the Hank McCoys of the world would still give him shit for it.

This explanation does seem to resonate with Emma Frost...for about five minutes or so. The Cyclops/Emma fans might want to look away and get some extra strong weed because this is where the emotions start to take a turn. First, she hints that maybe they should start over. Maybe she should take the lock off her panties so they could start fresh. Cyclops, showing more will power than any straight man in the history of any universe, says fuck no.

This leads to another powerful moment where Emma Frost reveals that, once again, she's been lying to him. She reveals her powers have been fixed and they've been fixed for a while now. It's not the first time she's lied to him. Even when they were together, Emma has had a nasty tendency to lie. She kept lying even after she promised to stop lying. Even if she has the best rack in all of comics, there's only so much lying a relationship can handle. But by revealing this latest lie, Emma breaks Cyclops down in a way that only an ex-girlfriend can. And she even manages to do it without making him feel like his balls have been sucked into a black hole. Somehow that makes her even sexier, although that should surprise no one at this point.

Once these lies are exposed, Emma reminds him that as bitter an ex-girlfriend as she is, she still admires him. She admires his thoughts and his desires. She probably admires his penis too, but she leaves that out because I'm sure it was implied. She reminds him of this because she shared a lot with him and not just her panties. That means Emma Frost probably knows better than anyone the kind of man Cyclops is capable of being. Now he's essentially punching that man in the dick and telling him to piss off. It's enough to make her wish her powers were still broken. It sends another powerful message that only Emma Frost could ever truly get across. She can make her point and look damn sexy doing it.

Emma tells Cyclops outright that he can't unmake the threats he made for his mutant revolution. And if he's going to back down from them, then he might as well shave his balls and get a tattoo of Hank McCoy's dick on his face. If he's not going to understand that, then she's not going to stay. She won't let herself live in an area where there's a chance he could plant a camera in her shower. It's probably the most brutally honest Emma Frost has ever been. And for the White Queen, that's saying something.

While her departure probably hurt Cyclops in a way for which his penis will never forgive him, Havok is ecstatic. This might be the inversion talking, but he's glad Emma Frost is gone. I'm sure he felt that dating the former White Queen was bad for his soul. Then again, he dated Magneto's daughter so he's not one to talk. Then in a very uninverted moment, he inspires Cyclops to do something more productive than turn himself over to the authorities. He urges him to do something that Charles Xavier and Wolverine would be proud of. At the very least, he should do something that'll make Iceman and Beast shut the fuck up. He doesn't say what it is, but it's clear that Cyclops is open to alternatives. In fact, this is probably the first alternative anybody has ever bothered to give him. And it's pretty fucking pathetic that it takes an inversion spell for someone to finally come up with something. Go figure.

This was one of those issues where everyone finally channeled their inner PMS. All these emotions and issues that had been either glossed over or set aside were finally laid out like Bill Clinton's secret porno stash. It was revealing, engaging, and even a little titillating. Or maybe that's just the blow talking. I can never tell. But after the chaotic shit storm caused by AXIS and the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier, this issue finally stopped throwing more shit at the fan and moved the story of Cyclops' revolution forward in a meaningful way. Sure, no SHIELD helicarriers crashed and no Avengers were pwned, but it did succeed in making Havok likable again and that alone is a hell of an accomplishment.

That's not to say the whole flip-flopping on who killed Charles Xavier for what reason was any less annoying. At this point, that whole debate is like a used condom. Nobody wants to handle it anymore and nobody really should. And this whole inversion crap that's supposed to be affecting Havok really didn't come into play like it has with Sabretooth and Tony Stark. So now another detail is getting glossed over. It's not quite as egregious, but it still continues an annoying trend. There's still a lot to like about this issue and what it does for Cyclops' story. He's humbled himself in ways that were overdue. And it feels like he's finally ready to step up and make the Hank McCoys of the world eat a bucket of shit. That's why I give Uncanny X-men #32 a 7 out of 10. It's good and it'll give everyone who has an annoying little brother warm and fuzzy feelings inside. For those who once had hot blonde girlfriends, not so much. So I guess that Hugh Hefner is the only one who should stay away from this comic. Nuff said!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Revealing Strengths and Vulnerabilities: Superman #39

The following is my review of Superman #39, which was posted on PopMatters.com.

The concept of a secret identity is a lot harder to contemplate in an era where identities are only as secretive as a botched instagram post. It was probably a lot easier decades ago when only the CIA, the DEA, and George Lucas utilized elaborate camera tricks. So someone like Clark Kent could get away with having a secret identity, especially with all the skills and powers that come along with being Superman. Over his history, he’s had to elaborate and creative. He’s not like Batman, who has enough money and gadgets to make most of his identity issues go away. But in this era, elaborate and creative just isn’t enough.

This creates a logistical problem of sorts for Superman. He lives in an era where phone booths are as extinct as eight-track tapes and everyone has a camera in their pocket. Yet somehow he’s still able to keep his identity secret from his friends, his family, the NSA, and Fox News. It’s one of those issues that’s easy to shrug off because it’s been part of Superman’s mythos since the 1940s, a time when a camera cost a mortgage payment. But after discovering a new power and keeping all his secrets solely amongst the Justice League, he’s taken a chance and revealed his identity to someone.

It’s overdue and it lacks impact, but it’s still an important development. Superman #39 explores that development in wake of the conflict surrounding Ulysses. It’s a development that didn’t have much of a transition, but it still counts as a pivotal moment for Superman. It even ends up being more than pivotal. It offers a refreshing insight into what makes Superman the ideal by which all heroes are measured.

The revelation itself isn’t the center of the story. It essentially starts a conversation that ends up going way beyond the merits of a secret identity in the 21st century. Jimmy Olson’s reaction is fairly predictable. It’s not overdone or overly dramatic. For a character like Jimmy Olson, that’s appropriate. He’s still this wide-eyed kid who sees the world from the perspective of someone whose spirit hasn’t been crushed by mortgages, bills, and the IRS.

To Jimmy Olson, his best friend being Superman is like finding out his best friend just bought a Ferrari. It’s shocking, but in a good way. Nobody faints. Nobody gets mad. He doesn’t whine about his friend lying to him all these years. He just accepts it and embraces this revelation. It might come off as bland, but it’s not callous. He doesn’t shrug it off or get overly worked up. And it’s because Jimmy’s reaction is so healthy that Superman can offer some perspective about what he’s going through.

In addition to revealing his identity, Superman is also dealing with not having his powers for a day. It’s one of the unfortunate side-effects of his latest Dragonball Z derived ability to generate a solar flare. But not having his powers doesn’t cripple him. He doesn’t tremble with fear and he doesn’t carry himself like he’s not Superman anymore. He actually embraces the opportunity to be fully human and having someone like Jimmy Olson to share the experience with makes it meaningful.

It’s probably the most mature way anyone has ever responded to a loss. Most people have a nervous breakdown whenever they drop their cell phone in the toilet. Superman lost the power that makes him Superman. That’s a lot more serious than simply not being able to Tweet from an elevator. But this loss doesn’t cause Superman to curl up into a fetal position and pray to Rao for the strength. It doesn’t even stop him from being Superman and this is where the true impact of the story shows.

Even though he’s fully human and completely vulnerable, Superman still doesn’t hesitate to help people in need. When a girl falls out of a tree, he helps her. When a crazed gunman takes a hostage, he does something about it. He does it when he’s just Clark Kent in normal street clothes. He also does it while he’s wearing his Superman armor. Not having his powers doesn’t change that in the slightest. He’s still Superman. He can still be the hero everyone needs him to be without his powers. In that sense, even other heroes who might complain about not being able to lift a freight train have no excuse.

The story doesn’t contain much in the form of style, nor does it offer anything decidedly epic like Superman’s final battle against Ulysses. But it does offer a beautiful reminder of why Superman is so iconic. It shows that Superman doesn’t do what he does because of his powers. In fact, his powers wouldn’t even rank in top five in terms of reasons why he’s the ideal by which all heroes are measured. He does the right thing, regardless of whatever power he may or may not have. That ideal is and always has been Superman’s greatest power.

This underlying theme is the greatest strength of the story. It’s a theme worth reinforcing. It’s easy to forget in between clashes with Lex Luthor and battles against alien warlords that Superman is more than the breadth of his powers. There will always be some satisfaction to the stories where he decks Lex Luthor and flies off with Lois Lane into the sunset. But there’s a different kind of satisfaction in stories that show why Superman embodies the ideals of so many heroes before and since his creation. It could be argued that him punching out Lex Luthor is more satisfying, but reinforcing those ideals is definitely more meaningful.

The story in Superman #39 isn’t overly epic. Revealing his identity to Jimmy Olsen doesn’t make for an overwhelming narrative, but it still does so in a meaningful way. It just ends up becoming secondary once Superman gets a chance to be Superman without his powers. It’s easy to be inspired by a man who isn’t afraid to do the right thing even when he can’t punch through a brick wall. But with or without Superman’s powers, it still doesn’t make glasses a viable disguise.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Strangers In Paradise Chapter 11: Broken Dreams is LIVE!

I've noticed that for the most part, comics put a lot of effort into the story that hooks two characters up and only ever gives half the amount of fucks necessary to develop that relationship. It's like once two characters get together, everyone just shrugs and leaves it at that. Because that's exactly how it works in the real world apparently. That's all there is to this romance and love shit.

I wish there was a font for sarcasm because that would have made that last paragraph so much more meaningful. Instead, I'll just come out and say until recently, comics have sucked donkey balls at developing meaningful romance. That's why I've found the way DC has developed the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship so refreshing. They didn't just put them together. They've actually shown a little progression. Granted, that progression has been slow. But it's still world's better than some of the shit I've seen with other relationships. That's exactly what I'm trying to capture with my own Superman/Wonder Woman story.

I went to great lengths to make getting Superman and Wonder Woman together in a meaningful way. But that's not even half the story. That's an important part, but there's a lot more shit to deal with that I want to explore. Now that Clark and Diana are together, how are they going to progress? Can their relationship deal with the challenges that come? That's exactly what I'll be exploring moving forward and this latest chapter starts that process.

Not every epic romance has to be built on the same misguided principles that made Twilight way more successful than it deserved to be. Good romance can emerge in a way that's balanced and compelling. It can both soak panties and evoke boners. It shouldn't be restricted to one gender or one kind of underwear. And that's what I hope to develop here with Strangers In Paradise. If I can make both genders equally horny by the end, then I'll know I've succeeded. Nuff said!

Friday, March 20, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue 117: Fate and Uncertainty PREVIEW!

The X-men have always fought for progress in the face of constant destruction. There are a lot of enemies working against them, human and mutant alike. I've utilized more than a few of those enemies in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Each enemy has done more than their share of destruction. Magneto overthrew an island government and turned it into a mutant nation. Sinister and Selene attempted to usurp the power of Mount Anton in Nova Roma. Graydon Creed attempted to turn a man into a living Sentinel named Bastion to destory all mutants. In each conflict, the X-men stopped the crisis. However, it still left plenty of damage. That damage has changed the course of this fanfiction series at times and the end of the Fantomex conflict will be no exception.

Once again, the X-men had to take on a very cunning enemy. Colonel Wraith, Reverend Stryker, and Graydon Creed aren't like Magneto or Sinister. They don't carry themselves with a larger-than-life persona. They don't try to overthrow the established order either. They try to take it over. Colonel Wraith and Reverend Stryker tried to do just that by creating Weapon Plus. The X-men naturally got caught in the crossfire and not just because of their history with Weapon X either. They made this conflict personal for the X-men because of Fantomex's connection to Sage, Wolverine, and X-23. Old scars were opened. New wounds were created. Some finally began to heal. However, the impact to the world of X-men Supreme will go far beyond personal.

Fantomex did damage on a scale that threatens to disrupt the already-fragile environment within this fanfiction series. One of the major themes in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths is built around the fragile peace that was created after Magneto's disappearance at the end of the Time Bomb arc. The X-men, President Kelly, and General Grimshaw tried to coordinate with Wanda Maximoff and the Brotherhood of Mutants to forge a new peace between Genosha and the rest of the world. Fantomex completely undermined that peace when he got Genosha involved when for once, Genosha had nothing to do with this conflict.

It's the kind of collatoral damage that will cause more than a few upheavals in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. That damage has to be confronted on both a personal level and in terms of the bigger picture. How will the X-men and General Grimshaw maintain peace when they just gave Genosha a very good reason not to trust them? That's going to be their next challenge as they pick up the pieces from Weapon Plus in the next issue. Once again, I’ve prepared a preview on this blog to offer a glimpse at what Weapon X's latest failure will bring.

“Colonel Jonathan Wraith built his career on living weapons,” mused General Nathan Grimshaw, “He caused so much pain and ruined so many lives, but when the time comes to hold him accountable…he dies.”

“I’m not sure if you’re disappointed or relieved, General,” said President Robert Kelly.

“I’m guilty of both, sir. Although personally, I’m a lot more disappointed.”

It was not every day that crime scene investigators arrived at the White House to document a murder. The local authorities joined with the FBI, the CIA, the Defense Department, and Secret Service to investigate the death of Colonel John Wraith. It came as a surprise to many, even President Kelly. Colonel Wraith had escaped justice many times before. He tried to do so again after failing to activate a failsafe on Fantomex. But this time he failed. When he tried to escape, the President put the White House on lockdown. It lasted only 30 minutes, ending after the Secret Service found his dead body.

Colonel Wraith’s devious endeavors were over. A number of Secret Service agents and soldiers from the Pentagon cordoned off the room while a team of investigators documented the scene. Wraith’s body was covered in a white sheet, but his mangled neck could still be seen. Whoever killed him had done so with their bare hands. It was an inglorious yet fitting end. Even in death, John Wraith left quite a mess.

“I won’t say this is a tragedy, but it sure does complicate things,” said President Kelly, “Wraith’s work on living weapons is highly classified. We can’t put out a report that he died because he was involved with some secret (not to mention illegal) program.”

“I hope that means you won’t give him a full military burial, complete with flowers and a twenty gun salute,” said General Grimshaw.

“Hell no! But we can’t just dump his body in the Potomac. We’ll have to fudge the details a bit. Make it sound like a long-festering illness finally caught up with him.”

“That’s not entirely false, Mr. President,” said the General.

“Half-truths to be far more tenable than outright lies. Although in this instance, I don’t think it makes a difference. The damage has been done.”

President Kelly bowed his head and turned away from the body. He couldn’t stand to look at it anymore. He couldn’t even watch as the EMT’s placed Wraith in a body bag so that he could be shipped off to the nearest morgue. Instead, he turned his attention to a nearby window. As President of the United States, there weren’t enough half-truths to make this incident more bearable.

“Mr. President, if I may…” began General Grimshaw.

“I’d rather you not, General. I’ve got enough on my mind,” sighed President Kelly, “Captain Freeman sent a report from Genosha ten minutes ago. All it said was the X-men and the Maximoff Twins were able to stop Fantomex. They didn’t kill him or bring him in. They just stopped him.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?”

“It should be. Who knows what kind of horrors he would have unleashed? But it doesn’t just relate to Fantomex. The MSA in District X also informed me that Wraith was working with Graydon Creed, who was supposed to be in federal prison. Hell, Wraith probably helped him escape!”

“At least we’ll have someone alive that we can hold responsible,” made Grimshaw.

“Even so, it adds a darker taint to something that was tainted to begin with. Between Weapon Plus and Graydon Creed’s involvement, Wanda Maximoff has a long list of reasons to be upset with us. And this time, we’re the ones who brought danger to them. Not the other way around.”

“Considering the stunts Magneto has pulled, I wouldn’t say we’re even just yet,” the General pointed out.

“People have a short memory, General. Circumstances are always changing. Genosha is a vital ally. It still has the technology the rest of the world has come to depend on. Now every mutant on that island has more reason to re-think that deal.”

“I doubt they’ll abandon it. This is a case of stepping in a pile of political cow-pies. It will require we show some humility, but in my experience shit is easier to clean than blood.”

“It’s not humility that concerns me. I’m willing to apologize for giving men like Wraith a forum for his sadistic vision,” said President Kelly distantly as he gazed over the Washington DC cityscape, “The part of this that will keep me up at night is why I allowed it to happen.”

“It wasn’t just you, Mr. President,” the General pointed out, “You were as upset as I was after the prison break at Fort Leavenworth. We were so upset that we questioned our ability. So like lazy Americans, we looked for a quick fix.”

“Don’t try to dilute the blame, General. The buck still stops with me. I still gave a chance to a man who should have been court marshaled decades ago. What’s that say about me? What does that say about the precedent I’m setting? I wanted to confront this threat before it blew up in our faces. Now it just seems adding more fuel to the fire.”

General Grimshaw was silent. President Kelly had always distinguished himself as a politician by speaking more truth than his colleagues. This was one of those cases where the truth was harsher than any lie. But he as a general was as guilty as everyone else. He was so upset with the X-men and his inability to carry out his duties for the MSA that he actually gave credence to Weapon Plus. He sought an easy solution when he should have been working harder on the current solution.

This rare taste of humility was bittersweet, but it had the right impact on both men. They were in positions of great influence. The decisions they made had great impact. It wasn’t as easy as expecting the sheer weight of their authority to get the job done. Everything they did had consequences and at this level, those consequences could be severe.

“So how do we move forward, Mr. President?” asked General Grimshaw, breaking the silence.

“That’s a question that doesn’t have a clear answer, General,” said President Kelly, “We have to mend things with Genosha, clean up in District X, and reclaim confidence within the MSA. We have to work a little bit harder to show we don’t need something like Weapon Plus to solve our problems.”

“Sounds like a tough sell. And this from someone who’s always up for a challenge.”

“We’ll have to rise to the occasion. This is one of those incidents that cast doubt along with a new perspective. For once, it wasn’t some mutant zealot like Magneto who brought this on. It was entirely on our shoulders.”

“You think maybe humanity might be as big a problem as mutants in the grand scheme of things?”

“I wouldn’t go quite that far, but we should always be open to the possibility,” the President sighed, “History is never on the side of the aggressors. Fate tends to draw us down the easier path. But nine times out of ten, the harder path tends to be the right one.”

The damage done by the Weapon Plus arc brings X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths closer to its defining moment. That moment has been building for quite some time now, going back to some of the earliest issues of this fanfiction series. I go to great lengths to create a rich, compelling narrative for the X-men. And with arcs like Weapon Plus, it's important I know that work is bearing fruit. So please take the time to provide feedback for X-men Supreme as it unfolds. either contact me directly or post your feedback in the issues. Either way is fine. I'm always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Inversions and Humility: Uncanny X-men #32 PREVIEW!

Remember when the idea of inverted heroes and villains sounded interesting without the aid of weed? Yeah, me neither. It seems so long ago that AXIS was a big fucking deal. Maybe it's because Marvel began hyping up Secret Wars and Star Wars before the corpse on AXIS began to decompose. But AXIS did have some pretty significant consequences, some of which haven't been addressed. And when some comic book fans have attention spans only as long as their next joint, that can be a problem.

One of those consequences that I'm sure most people forgot about was Havok staying inverted and joining Cyclops' New Xavier School. Now I don't deny that I've given Havok a lot of shit since he became a central character on Uncanny Avengers. To be fair, he earned every scrap of that fecal-fueled criticism. He had his moments later on, but he was a dick in some pretty big moments. Now that he's inverted like Sabretooth and Iron man, he has the potential to be way worse or way better. Like a young Jenna Jameson, he could go either way.

But in addition to Havok being inverted, he's coming at a time when Cyclops is closing the New Xavier School. He just rejected Charles Xavier's generous inheritance that would've given him enough money to pay every person on the planet to tell Hank McCoy to go fuck himself. And after some time travel shenanigans with Tempus, he's no longer confident in his ability to lead a mutant revolution. And now he has to do it with an inverted brother. I'm low on weed, but I think that helps make things interesting again and a preview from Newsarama shows just that.

So Havok is now stuck being an ass while Cyclops is in an overdue state of humility. I'm not sure that balances anything out, but I'm pretty sure it's going to fuck a few things up. In some ways, it regresses Cyclops. He started the New Xavier School to start rebuilding his reputation after Avengers vs. X-men. He took a big shit on that reputation during the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier. So what's he going to do now? If he ditches his school, is he just going to keep hiding from the Avengers and occasionally funnel a few unfortunate mutants to the Jean Grey Institute? It's hard to say. It sounds more poorly planned than the screenplay for Battlefield Earth. But even if it ends up being a total clusterfuck, it could still be entertaining. Nuff said!

Scanned Thoughts: Cyclops #11

We all tell crazy lies at some point in our lives. Sometimes we do it to get ahead. Sometimes we do it to get laid. Sometimes we do it because we work at Fox News and lying is the only way Rupert Murdoch can get an erection anymore. Contrary to what the hippies may say, most lies are harmless. But certain lies can do a fuckton of damage if they come out the wrong way. Most of us learn that lesson in our youth, especially during our teen years. O5 Cyclops is learning that lesson in the hardest way possible.

For once, Cyclops did everything right. He did the right thing for the right reason. He saved his father from Captain Malafect. He even went out of his way to save Captain Malafect’s crew when he didn’t have to. Even the assholes who still bust his balls for what happened with Madelyne Pryor have to admit he’s done all the right things. But that just wasn’t enough for Vileena, the hot alien girl who wanted to show him her inter-species mating rituals. Even alien teenage girls don’t give a shit about the circumstances. He lied to her and that pisses her off in a way that justifies ball busting torture. It’s a tough lesson that men have to learn at some point in their lives and O5 Cyclops gets to learn it in Cyclops #11. But it’s going to be an important lesson, especially if he’s going to survive dating Emma Frost.

First, he has to survive being the latest of Vileena’s unfortunate love interests. As it turns out, she has a bit of a history with cute young pirates. And it’s not unlike the same history a hungry piranha has with a wounded duck. It’s revealed through some flashbacks that O5 Cyclops isn’t the first hormonal male who has been smitten with Vileena’s charms. And like the Hilton kids, she never hesitates to exploit her family’s resources.

She wants her father to torture O5 Cyclops in every horrible way imaginable and a teenage girl can imagine some pretty fucked up shit. And I’m sure under most circumstances Captain Malafect wouldn’t hesitate to listen to his precious little girl’s whining the same way Paris Hilton’s family entertained her failed music career. There’s just one big fucking problem. They’re in a busted ship and the big fancy weapon they hoped to sell for a fuckton of money is broken. And since badass pirates can’t afford to be broke, they have to work smart. Money does indeed trump whiney teenage girls. It’s one of the few forces that can.

This takes the conflict to a special little hell hole called Tjaro-6. It’s basically an even shittier version of Mos Eisleys in Star Wars. It’s basically a pirate’s den, but it doesn’t just trade in weapons, ships, and Wookie furs. It also trades in slaves. It’s basically what sweatshop owners wish existed. And this is where Malafect wants to take O5 Cyclops and Corsair. I think on some levels Vileena would be okay with that.

But it’s not just Corsair and O5 Cyclops who have to enjoy this colorful speck of hell in the galaxy. The rest of the Starjammers were lucky enough to be rescued by slave traders. And where do slave traders go to take their cargo? I guess Tjaro-6 is the Wal-Mart of slaves. Now this also makes for a galactic level coincidence. The Starjammers just happened to be picked up by slave traders and they just happen to end up in the same place as Corsair and O5 Cyclops. Even if Tjaro-6 is the Wal-Mart of slaves, it’s still quite a coincidence. I won’t say it’s overly contrived. They’re pirates. I imagine they cross paths with slave traders at least once a week. So it does fit in that context. It just feels too convenient in a galaxy large enough to have more than one slave post.

Convenience or not, it still makes for a less-than-pleasant reunion between Corsair and his crew. They arrive shortly after Hepzibah and the others are thrown into cells. So if he and O5 Cyclops were hoping the rest of the Starjammers would rescue them, he can pretty much flush that down the toilet along with his dignity. They don’t even give him the courtesy of a conjugal visit. These are slave traders, not medium security prisons, not discount motels along the Jersey Turnpike. However, I imagine the beds are just as comfortable.

Before Corsair and O5 Cyclops get thrown into a cell, O5 Cyclops attempts to reason with Kratyr. He’s the big yellow Thing rip-off who O5 Cyclops went out of his way to save during their battle against the Shi’ar. He’s not Captain Malafect and he’s not Vileena. O5 Cyclops never broke his heart or made him horny. He has a reason to help O5 Cyclops. He’s the one who directly benefited from O5 Cyclops’ annoying tendency to be a boy scout. But it wasn’t enough. He still throws them in a slave cell, knowing they’ll probably get sold into an alien plantation or an alien zoo, whoever has deeper pockets pays better.

However, the torture and indignation that O5 Cyclops and Corsair would endure as slaves still isn’t enough for Vileena. Like a spoiled rich girl who is upset over having one less Bentley than her neighbor, she demands that O5 Cyclops die. It’s a perfectly irrational demand for any teenage girl to make, alien or otherwise. The problem is that few badass space pirates succeed by listening to the whims of teenage girls and Captain Malafect understands this.

He calmly explains to her that killing O5 Cyclops and Corsair will just make things harder for them in the long run. Their ship already got fucked up after their battle with the Shi’ar. They need money in order to fix it. Since the starcracker is trashed, they need to sell O5 Cyclops and Corsair as slaves. That way they have the money to fix their ship and get the fuck away from the Shi’ar before they can come looking for their missing starcracker. It’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. It makes good sense from a pragmatic and logistical level. But since when has that ever been enough to satisfy a pissed off teenager? Being reasonable and pragmatic just doesn’t compute for an immature teenage mind. Captain Malafect might as well be trying to convince a dog not to lick its balls.

This puts O5 Cyclops and Corsair in a very bad position. They’re about to be sold off as slaves. They even watch as the rest of the Starjammers get sold off and hauled away. This is usually the time where most people just start shitting themselves and not bother to ask for a change of underwear. Corsair certainly seems ready to take a knee, but O5 Cyclops remains convinced that they have to fight. Like I said, teenage minds simply can’t compute logistics sometimes. Corsair says they need a miracle, but they end up getting the next best thing.

Remember O5 Cyclops’ annoying tendency to be a boy scout and how that ended up screwing them over by helping Malafect? Well, it also ended up saving their miserable asses because the shackles on them just suddenly unlock. It’s not a miracle. O5 Cyclops figures out it comes courtesy of Kratyr, the Thing rip-off he went out of his way to save earlier. He set their shackles to unlock themselves. That way they can save themselves and he doesn’t screw himself over. It’s not just a perfect crime. It’s wonderfully befitting.

This is the kind of shit that the adult Cyclops forgot. Being the boy scout and doing the right thing may cause some nasty complications, some of which include pissing off vindictive ex-girlfriends. But it does pay off in the long run. Karma can screw people over, but it can deliver a much needed shot in the arm when shit starts to get heavy. It shows that there’s genuine merit to O5 Cyclops’ tactics. Even vehement Wolverine fans have to concede that this was much more effective than trying to solve every problem with claws and whiskey.

Once O5 Cyclops and Corsair escape, they race to get the fuck out of this slave pit. But their escape does not go unnoticed. And of course Vileena is the first one to make them wish they could live the rest of their lives as slaves. She manages to hunt them down and she brings a big fucking gun with her. She may not dress in the overtly sexual outfits of the Goblin Queen, but a big fucking gun is just as effective as an army of goblins. And she’s able to do what I’m sure Madelyne Pryor dreams of doing when she jerks off, punching O5 Cyclops right across the face after he tries to apologize. Considering what she could’ve done, I still think he got off easy.

This is where the pacing gets a little choppy and rushed. I get shit is starting to hit the fan, but it happens a little quickly. Vileena and Captain Malafect find O5 Cyclops and Corsair pretty damn quickly. That’s perfectly understandable. They want them to suffer. Why wouldn’t they keep a close eye on them? It just doesn’t flow as well as other recent shit storms in this series. I’m sure that still won’t stop the anti-Cyclops fans from enjoying the sight of Vileena decking him in ways that would get her suspended from the NFL.

But she does more than just punch him. She makes it clear that she really did care about O5 Cyclops. She’s not just some crazed teenage girl who enjoys getting pissed off at her love interests, although she doesn’t seem to mind. She really did care about O5 Cyclops. And his betrayal really did hurt her. It makes her cosmic hissy fit a bit more meaningful. That’s more than can be said for Madelyne Pryor. She tries making O5 Cyclops pay by shooting his father. I guess that basically ruins any possibility of break-up sex.

This is when Captain Malafect also gets in on the fun. Being a good father who spends time with his daughter and shares her passions, she decides to help her maim O5 Cyclops and Corsair. He goes after Corsair specifically, making a point at how much he hates it when hormonal boys hurt her daughter. He also takes plenty of that frustration out on Corsair. But for Corsair, his son’s ability to be a pain in Captain Malafect’s ass is a compliment. I guess that’s two things they both have in common. They’re very proud of their children and they’re willing to help them kick ass when it needs to be kicked. It’s the joys of fatherhood, minus the complications caused by Maury Pouvich.

The battle between the two sides is intense and visceral. That’s what makes it satisfying. This is a battle between two rival space pirates and two hormonal teenagers. It’s like Pirates of the Caribbean meets the Jersey Shore, taking two things that suck and making something awesome out of it. The emotions help make it an awesome battle. But it also ensures that it ends tragically.

Because she’s in a pissed off, overly emotional state, Vileena makes another poor decision. She attempts to throw a knife at Corsair and O5 Cyclops saves him. But in her anger, she fails to notice her father right behind him and the blade ends up killing him instead. It makes for another emotional moment. In her anger over a boy, she ends up killing her father. But being a teenage girl, chances are she’s not going to learn from that mistake. It’s a powerful moment that also gives O5 Cyclops and Corsair a chance to escape. O5 Cyclops offers his condolences, but he might as well offer her cupcakes laced with meth because there’s nothing that’s going to fix this situation for her.

The pacing gets a little rushed and choppy again, but it still helps tie up the remaining loose ends. Once free, O5 Cyclops and Corsair take out the slave traders who took the Starjammers. They then get the fuck out of this slave pit and back into the cold darkness of space, which at this point is like a beach in Maui.

But for Vileena, it’s not nearly as pleasant. She and the crew of the Desolation have a funeral for her father that they clearly ripped off from Star Trek. The crew then names her the captain because making a pissed off teenager a leader has always turned out well, as Game of Thrones has shown. I guess pirates should watch more HBO because Vileena makes it clear she’s now on Madelyne Pryor’s team. She wants to make O5 Cyclops suffer, even though she’s the one responsible for her father’s death. Why? She’s a teenage girl. It doesn’t need to be logical.

When all is said and done, the Starjammers are finally back home. They make their way back to their ship and start repairing it. They can finally focus on being badass space pirates again. They’ve more than earned it. It also gives them a chance to catch up with some of the events in the galaxy they missed, namely the shit storm being caused by the Black Vortex. They were already aware of it. Now they’re set up for the perfect transition that’ll put them in the crossfire of more cosmic power and more emotional teenagers, talking trees, and Hank McCoy. Because why not? They’ve just handled a ruthless pirate and his vindictive daughter. They’re more than equipped to handle a cosmic power not named the Phoenix Force.

This series has had more than its share of defining moments for O5 Cyclops. These were the kinds of moments that would’ve sent his older self farther down that darker path he’s been following ever since Apocalypse mind-fucked him and Emma Frost gave him a repeated dose of sloppy seconds. But O5 Cyclops didn’t fall into that same trap. He resisted the urge to become a Wolverine-lite anti-hero. He remained the lovable boy scout who kept trying to do the right thing, even when it screwed him over. And more than anything else, this issue showed how being that boy scout can pay off.

It was because O5 Cyclops showed mercy and compassion to even his enemies that he escaped Captain Malafect. Sure, Vileena still hates his guts. Sure, she blames him for her father’s death even though she’s the one who threw the fucking knife. But mercy and compassion just aren’t enough for teenage girls. However, it is enough to save him and his father in the most fitting and satisfying way possible. He didn’t have to compromise. He didn’t have to lose his fucking mind or sell his soul. He just had to keep fighting and doing the right thing. Even Madelyne Pryor fans have to respect that.

This issue did so many things right. It wrapped up plenty of loose ends. And while it did get a little choppy in some areas, it provided a perfect transition into the Black Vortex crossover. There was emotion, drama, tragedy, and badass space pirates kicking ass. Anyone who is not satisfied with that needs to lay off the valium. Cyclops #11 gets a 8 out of 10. It also deserves to be added to the list of reasons why Cyclops is an awesome character. It’s not just that he can hook up with hot telepaths and cute alien girls. He can do so while being a nice, honest boy scout. In other words, Hank McCoy can go fuck himself. Nuff said!