Thursday, April 30, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: X-men #26

When it comes to the X-men, it’s hard for anything they face to feel overly exotic. This is a team that deals with aliens, gods, dictators, and religious bigots all in the same week. It’s hard to put them in a situation that’ll feel genuinely novel. That doesn’t mean the stories of these situations can’t be awesome. If people got tired of seeing their favorite characters follow a familiar formula with their adventures, the Simpsons wouldn’t have lasted over 25 years. And in the same way I enjoy the Simpsons, I enjoy seeing the X-men deal with crazy yet familiar challenges.

There’s nothing all that mind-blowing about the latest clusterfuck the X-women have encountered. They’re trapped in a deep, subterranean realm in the Black Rock Desert and one of them happens to be horribly claustrophobic. It sounds like both an adventure and an upcoming reality show on NBC. While it would suck as a reality show, it has done a good job of putting the X-women in a situation that brings out the strengths of their characters. Some have shown more strength than others. That’s hard to avoid in a team that has both Storm and Monet in its ranks. Nobody’s going to feel their mind and heart race in this story without the aid from some really good weed, but X-men #26 still has plenty to offer. But does it deliver? It does, but not in the way you might expect.

For a good chunk of this arc, the X-women have been stumbling around in this cave trying to figure out why it’s trying to become Earth’s latest rectal wart not caused by fracking. Somewhere along the line, they uncovered that it’s part of yet another Kree clusterfuck and this one didn’t even have the decency to give a hot blonde superpowers. It just created the kind of death trap that the X-men find themselves in at least once a month. At this point, they’re done playing Indiana Jones. They just want to get the fuck out before they have to outrun giant boulders. And since this cave is being fueled by Kree douche-baggery, it doesn’t make it easy for them.

Rachel, Psylocke, and Monet’s escape attempts are a lot more ambitious than Indiana Jones, but the cave just doesn’t want to let a bunch of pretty women out of it. I want to say I can’t blame it, but this cave has already displayed a Robert Durst level of creepy so I’ll stop myself. They’re able to escape, but not without feeling they just spent a weekend in Tony Stark’s bungalow. Then Storm shows up and it’s no longer a balanced battle.

Now Storm is supposed to be the claustrophobic one here. In fact, she’s been dealing with that shit for a good chunk of this arc. She’s been dealing with it to the point where it starts to drag. Finally, she decides to kick that phobia in the dick and join her friends. It’s not just an awesome display of how she can dry-hump nature on a whim. It also makes for an emotional reunion. She actually takes the time to embrace her friends. It may sound like the premise of most lesbian porn, but it actually has heart. It still gives me a boner. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it though.

The emotional reunion lasts about as long as a Van Halen reunion because that cave isn’t done being a Kree-fueled asshole. It decides it’s no longer content just being the topic of a National Geographic documentary. It’s going to take a page right out Ghostbusters and become a big rampaging monster that’s nowhere near as adorable as the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. Even though it’s in the middle of a fucking desert, that desert just happens to be the site of some hipster goth concert. So there are plenty of people to crush. I know this probably doesn’t need to be said, but fuck the Kree.

The X-men go to work doing what they do whenever they see a giant monster and/or killer robot. They even have a chance to meet up with Gambit, who has done basically jack shit in this story. For all we know, he was having a three-way with a couple of goth chicks. And he keeps on doing jack shit as Storm and Rachel Grey attempt to attack the rock monster. It immediately tries to give them the Ray Rice treatment. But these are the X-women. Even a cave monster has to worry about more than a four-game suspension and a dipshit casino security guard.

It doesn’t exactly make for an epic battle on part with the final battle in Terminator 2. Rachel Grey actually tries to be the one that delivers the finishing blow. She fails miserably and that’s kind of a running theme with her. She’s such a powerhouse, but she does so much nothing in every X-men comic she’s in that she might as well be Brett Favre’s backup. It’s a symptom of a much bigger problem involving Rachel Grey as a character, but one that’s no more egregious than usual in the face of a giant rock monster.

Despite another self-deprecating moment, Rachel Grey gets a nice save from Jubilee, who has tried to contribute to this story as best a mutant-vampire/teen mother can. She flies in on one of the X-men’s many mini-jets and catch’s Rachel because I guess she just hasn’t been marginalized enough. But being part of the X-women, it’s fitting that she shows up since she has been working behind the scenes with Beast to figure out why this cave is more fucked up than any hole in the desert that nobody besides Bear Gylles would go.

It makes for another emotional reunion followed by more hugs. Again, that moment gets ruined when the big fucking rock monster crushes Jubilee’s mini-jet. I’m pretty sure that warrants combing Beast’s fur for a week. Given all the jets the X-men lose, they’re probably numb to such horrors.

The X-women make another attack. This time, Jubilee offers some advice. This thing is a result of yet another Kree fuck-up. Instead of creating another Captain Marvel, it created a pissed off rock monster. So maybe it makes more sense to reach out to that rock monster or at least make it think happy thoughts before they kick its rocky ass. It’s not the same as Chuck Norris just cracking his knuckles and hoping the sound of his bones is enough to shatter the monster, but it does offer something a little deeper than the typical monster/giant robot fight.

It also has the added benefit of allowing Rachel Grey to reveal just what’s pissing this creature off so much. It adds some details about the Kree fuck-up that created it. Surprise, some dip-shit humans helped add to it. First, a Kree satellite crashed because I guess that’s what Kree technology is best at doing. Then some dip-shit humans tried to turn it into a weapon and made it into a monster instead. Then a Kree soldier arrives to piss off said monster. It’s not so much a tragedy as it is a comedy of douche-baggery.

At the very least, the X-women show it some level of mercy. Rachel Grey makes sure the creature is numb before Storm blows it the fuck up in the most spectacular way possible. It is a little overly efficient in that it basically shows that Rachel Grey should never be on the front lines of a giant monster fight. But the added details about this creature help give its destruction some weight, which is something we don’t normally get when the X-men destroy a monster/killer robot. We’re just content to see shit blow up. That’s all well and good for a Transformers movie, but depth helps make it meaningful.

The X-women finally have a chance to catch their breath and the would-be concert-goers can finally stop shitting themselves. This is usually the part where they just shrug their shoulders and go onto fight the next killer monster that comes their way. But again, we get a little extra added depth.

They stand in the ruins of the creature and muse over the douche-baggery and incompetence that created it. On some levels, it was a tragedy because this monster wasn’t rubbing elbows with the Red Skull or anything. It was a victim of another Kree-inspired shit storm. And the X-women had to be the ones to put it down. It makes the moment more bittersweet, but in a good way.

It also makes for a sweet moment between Storm and Jubilee back at the Jean Grey Institute. Even though it was probably her claustrophobia fucking with her, Storm had visions of Wolverine in that cave. It adds a little extra emotion to a story that involved giant rock monster, which in and of itself is an accomplishment. It also shows that Wolverine’s death still has impact, even if the lawyers at Marvel Studios wish it didn’t.

Jubilee even tries to honor the dead rock monster in some weird yet fitting way. She takes a piece of it and gives it to Karoka, the Jean Grey Institute’s resident lawn monster. It’s a nice way of ensuring they don’t completely shrug off the tragedy that created this monster. And it gives Karoka hope that one day another Kree fuck-up will turn a mountain into a big-titted woman rock monster. Let’s face it. At the rate the Kree fuck up, that’s bound to happen at some point.

In terms of the larger arc, this story has dragged at times. That’s not to say it dragged as much as the last Martin Scorsese movie, but the X-women spent a bit too much time stumbling around in the dark. However, this issue offered a nice payoff to all that stumbling. They finally got the fuck out of that cave and kicked ass as only X-women can. But they ended up doing more than just destroy a rampaging rock monster. That’s the kind of shit anyone can see on a Power Rangers rerun. They found time to inject a little heart into the struggle. Sure, it still ended with Storm exercising her inner goddess and shattering the monster in ways no megazord can boast, but there was more to it and that helped give the story its impact.

Beyond fighting a rock monster, there was still time for nice character moments. Even Karoka got in on the act. Sure, some characters like Rachel Grey might as well be extras on a Star Trek rerun at this point. However, the characters that did have moments made the most of them. This extra bit of emotion is what has made the X-women awesome and worthy of their own series. This arc didn’t play to all their strengths, but it did enough to be satisfying. I give X-men #26 a 7 out of 10. So now the Kree have found a way to fuck with humans and mutants alike. Can someone just put a big sign on the moon at this point and tell the Kree to fuck off until the Captain Marvel movie comes out? I think everyone in the Marvel universe is tired of their shit at this point. Nuff said!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Spider-Man and the X-men #6

Like peanut butter and jelly or Jack Daniels and coke, there are just some combinations that work. And for a long time, Wolverine and Spider-Man was among those combinations. It was right up there with Emma Frost and She-Hulk as the most fitting team-up. These two were like the ultimate buddy cop movie. They carried themselves so differently, but they found a way to make it work in the most awesome way possible. Then Wolverine had to go get himself killed and like David Spade without Chris Farley, we lost something.

That loss still hurts, but it hasn't stopped Spider-Man from honoring his fallen friend. He's been trying to do just that in Spider-Man and the X-men as a teacher at the Jean Grey School. For the most part, he's either failed miserably or found a way to piss off all of Wolverine's old friends. But he's done it in a way that has been fun and entertaining, even if it has lacked depth and refinement. I admit a part of me reads this and thinks, "I'd much rather see Spider-Man and Wolverine kick the Kingpins ass and then bang a dozen redheaded strippers." Instead, I'm reading about Spider-Man tripping over his ass trying to find a mole in the Jean Grey Institute and continually pissing off Storm in the process. It has been entertaining, but it just hasn't been the same. Spider-Man and the X-men #6 is supposed to up the stakes. But it still has a long ways to go before it can be on the same level as Spidy and Wolverine getting drunk at a bar.

That said, it’s not too many levels down after Spidy finds out who that mole was that Wolverine wanted him to fine. And as it just so happens, that mole was working with Sinister, the only X-men villain who can make Norman Osborn seem less creepy without impregnating Gwen Stacy. At the end of the previous issue, Ernst finally revealed to Spider-Man that she had been the one looking to screw the X-men over. But she didn’t do it just so she could take a nice steaming shit on Wolverine’s grave. She did it for a friend.

I can write that with a straight face because even though she worked with Sinister, she doesn’t come off as a total dick. She reveals that she helped Sinister because he promised to create a new body for her disembodied friends, No Girl. It’s a surprisingly serious and sincere motivation in a story that has been about as serious as a physics lecture by Sarah Palin. It adds some much needed balance, even as Spider-Man jokes with Sinister while he’s tied down to a gurney. Yes, he jokes even in the face of Mr. Sinister. He’s Spider-Man. Even a deal with Mephisto can’t keep him from making these kind of shitty wise-cracks, but that’s a big part of why we still love him despite Andrew Garfield’s attempts to change that.

All joking aside, Spider-Man is exceedingly screwed in ways he probably hasn’t been since the last time he banged Black Cat. The only ones who have any idea he’s in trouble and give enough of a shit to do about it are his students, who he’s been trying to motivate with laughably limited success. But being teenagers, they’re inclined to get a little curious when their teacher disappears. Being curious in a way that would get most teenagers pregnant by their junior year, they decide to do more than just tweet about it and investigate.

They find out that someone roughed Spider-Man up and not with pumpkin bombs or metal arms either. Since one of them has the tracking skills and the head of a shark, they can sniff him out. And since teenagers aren’t prone to thinking things through, hence the prevalence of shitty tattoos and body piercings, they decide to go after it. And since they have mutant powers, they’re less inclined to be stopped. Who the fuck would try to stop a guy with rocky skin and a girl who looks like a shark?

Back at Sinsiter’s lab, Spider-Man is still trapped and still making jokes. He doesn’t even get too pissed at Ernst. Most teachers I know would’ve gone Catholic School on her ass at this point. But all the joking doesn’t make what Sinister reveals any less disturbing. Despite being a pasty-faced dick, he does fulfill his end of the bargain. He gives No Girl a new body. He just does it in a way that makes him both a dick and a dick with a twisted sense of humor.

The new body he gives her happens to be a clone of Storm. Granted, it’s not the worse body he could’ve given her. He could’ve put her in the body of Rosanne if he wanted. Instead, he put her in a badass weather goddess’ body. I would’ve preferred the body with the boobs of Emma Frost and the ass of Captain Marvel, but that’s just me. What makes it a dick move is that he adds something else that he didn’t tell Ernst. He adds a little fine print to the user agreement that allows him to control her. So she has a body, but she might as well be the pinkie toe instead of the brain. It’s not much of an upgrade.

It still puts Spider-Man in a shitty situation. Him against a clone Storm is not a fair fight. Given his history with clones, he’s probably better off trying to fuck her than fight her. But his students are coming to his rescue, albeit with the competence of a Comcast customer service rep. They’re able to track him down to a mall of all places, which I guess is a nice change of pace from the typical abandoned warehouse. But they only find it just in time to see that Sinister cloned more than Storm. He cloned the rest of the Jean Grey Institute staff as well, including Wolverine.

Even though they’re clones, they still present an unfair fight for Spidy’s students. It still sets up a fairly epic clash. That’s not something I usually say when Spider-Man is involved in a fight with clones. That’s usually a good sign. Any battle involving Spider-Man and clones is taboo for the same reason anything involving star athletes and strip clubs is taboo. But it helps that emotions with Ernst and No-Girl add weight to the battle. Otherwise, it would just be a battle about Sinister being a dick.

The battle is nicely detailed and eventually Spider-Man is freed so he can participate. He gets a chance to give his students what amounts to a pop quiz that’s only slightly less nerve-racking than a Calculus quiz. These students that he’s been trying to motivate in a ways that won’t make Wolverine throw up in his grave actually rally behind him. He’s able to guide them in a way that allows them to one-up these rip-off X-men. Hellion and Eye Boy especially shine, turning clone Iceman’s powers against him. It may or may not be a result of Spider-Man’s teaching, but he definitely deserves a gold star.

But the most intense part of the battle is still with No Girl and Ernst. Sinister doesn’t seem to care that much that his clones are getting their asses kicked by a bunch of teenagers who can probably still count the number of Sentinel attacks they’ve experienced on one hand. He’s more than happy to just watch his creations torment Ernst. He’s probably hiding a huge erection. But that boner quickly gets killed when Spider-Man conveniently tricks a clone of Firestar to burning away the DNA samples that Ernst collected for him. Spider-Man even is a dick about it, but in the most satisfying possible way. Given Sinister’s capacity for doing twisted shit, a dick move like this is both warranted and satisfying.

The battle gets a little less detailed from here. The rest of the team doesn’t really do much while what’s left of Sinister’s clone army continues to rampage. The main struggle is still with No Girl and Ernst. It’s here where we find out that Spider-Man’s efforts to teach these renegade, hormonal mutant teenagers actually succeeded on some levels. His preaching about power and responsibility actually resonated with them. Usually, a message doesn’t resonate with a teenager unless food or internet access is involved. That’s what makes it so meaningful.

Ernst, knowing she betrayed the X-men and aided one of their worst enemies, takes responsibility for her shit and does the right thing. She attacks her friend in a beautifully emotional moment. The themes of power and responsibility really shine here, something that teenagers usually don’t say outside of a made-for-TV Disney movie. But it still feels genuine and in a story that involves clones, that’s saying a lot.

Once Ernst subdues No Girl, she joins up with the others to take on Sinister and his clone army. It’s more than a little messy. She just ripped the brain out of the head of a clone of Storm. Sadly, we don’t get any gruesome details. Those with a weak stomach can breathe a sigh of relief. Those who aren’t afraid to eat pizza they find between couch cushions can sigh in disappointment.

It’s even more disappointing when the battle against Sinister is essentially cut off. Once No Girl is back to being a brain in a jar, we don’t get any more details. The story basically just skips ahead to the aftermath. For a battle that had been pretty visceral, despite involving clones, that’s a pretty big disappointment. Then again, Sinister was now facing a team of unified pissed off teenagers. He had to know he was outmatched at that point.

However the battle ends, the aftermath is still somewhat compelling. Spider-Man has a nice chat with Storm, which is saying something in and of itself given how she’s made it clear in this series that she finds Spider-Man only slightly less annoying than head lice. But during this chat, he talks about what he tried to teach these mutant teenagers. More importantly, these mutant teenagers show the Jean Grey Institute that they appreciated this lesson. They even used it in a real-world situation. How many teenagers who appreciate an algebra lesson an say that?

It makes for a nice bit of insight for each character. These are all D-list X-men characters who don’t usually get a chance to be awesome. But the way they talk to Storm and the Jean Grey Institute staff about their experience with Spider-Man makes them worth giving a few fucks about. They actually show that they’re not just teenagers with powers. They’re capable of using these powers to kick Sinister’s ass, beat up clones, and help civilians. That’s way more progress than most teenagers get without getting drafted.

Their heroics genuinely impress the Jean Grey Institute staff. What impresses them even more is that they actually stick up for Ernst. Whether inspired by Spider-Man or just being less dickish than most teenagers, they urge them not to expel Ernst for working with Sinister. Even Storm admits that she wouldn’t have been the first X-men to work with him. Hell, if they can let Emma Frost join the X-men after the shit she’s done, they have no excuse for ditching Ernst. It’s a nice moment and one that highlights the progress these young mutants have made. It’s more progress than they would’ve gotten by just fighting giant robots too. That’s what makes it unique and meaningful.

They still get disciplined, but not in a way that’ll make them drop cherry bombs down toilets. Spider-Man even goes out of his way to commend his students for being so responsible. They managed to be responsible in the face of evil clones. By Spider-Man’s standard, they’re the mutant equivalent of a playoff caliber football team. He gives them a nice speech and even goes out of his way to apologize to No Girl for thinking she was the mole. It’s probably the most serious tone that Spider-Man has used in this series and its fitting.

It’s also fitting that in the spirit of responsibility, they start helping Spider-Man with his patrols. That’s right. As an extra credit assignment of sorts, they get to become the beta version of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. They get to fly with him throughout New York and fight crime. All I’ll say about that is it beats the hell out of study hall.

So in the end, was this series as entertaining as a classic Wolverine/Spider-Man team-up? In my soberish opinion, no. It is not. But then again few things are and this issue came tantalizingly close. It's in the same zip code, even if it isn't in the same neighborhood. This series has been chaotic and uncoordinated at times. It has made a noble effort to capture the fun, entertaining experience that Wolverine and the X-men once had. It only succeeded in part in that respect, but it succeeded in plenty others that helped make up for it.

This issue completed a story that got more side-tracked Keanu Reeves' career. Spider-Man came to the Jean Grey Institute to find a mole. He found that mole, which led to a clash with Sinister and extensive property damage. It wasn't as epic as it could've been, but it was still entertaining. Spider-Man still comes off as the least qualified teacher at the Jean Grey Institute, but that's part of what made it so entertaining. And like a drunken boxer that somehow lands a lucky hit, he managed to get the job done. He got through to his students and even the Jean Grey Institute staff found him less annoying. It may have had the tone of a Looney Toons rerun, but it still had heart and it made for a satisfying conclusion to this series. I give Spider-Man and the X-men #6 a 7 out of 10. I still miss stories about Spider-Man and Wolverine being the ultimate buddy-cop team-up. But if Spider-Man can team-up with shark girls, eye boys, and disembodied brains while Wolverine enjoys his death vacation, I think that'll tide me over in the interim. Nuff said!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Cosmic Crescendo: Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1

The following is my review of Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1, which was posted on

There are certain games where the urge to cheat is just too great. Games like Contra are the best example where the temptation isn't just extreme. It's downright necessary to stand a chance of getting to the final boss. Cosmic power in comics are akin to cheat codes in video games. It does take away some of the fun. It does negate some of the satisfaction that might come from overcoming the odds. We all want to feel like Rocky Balboa after he just beat Ivan Drago. But there are times when we need to be Ivan Drago in order to stand a chance.

The threats faced by the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy during the Black Vortex would make even Rocky reach for the extra dose of steroids. The scope and scale of this crossover story has already defied the odds, creating a cohesive narrative with a large cast of characters and finding ways to make every character feel relevant. Part of what has kept it cohesive is that despite the cosmic chaos surrounding the power of the Black Vortex, the source of the conflict is painfully simple. It all starts and ends with Mr. Knife, also known as Starlord's father. Like King Joffrey in Game of Thrones, he's the least likable person in the universe. He's also the unifying force that has driven the conflict throughout this story.

At this point, Mr. Knife has done everything possible to make the universe hate his guts. He's recruited Thanos' son, he's tried to kill his own son, and he encased an entire planet in amber and did it with a smile that rivals Jack Nicholson in The Shining. He's done so much to vilify himself that using cosmic power/cheat codes to beat him wouldn't make it less satisfying. Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1 finally puts the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy in a position to finish him off and make this vast crossover story into a finished product. That product isn't a freshly cut diamond, but it's close and it has plenty of other gems to offer.

At this point in the story, there's no more teasing. There's no more subtlety. Like a toddler on an elevator pushing all the buttons, everything is pure spectacle. The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy are battling the Slaughter Lords, trying to keep them from the Black Vortex. At the same time, Spartax is about to be turned into an oversized ant farm for the Brood. This led Kitty Pryde to submit to the Black Vortex in a last desperate effort to prevent her boyfriend's father from making her universe more miserable. Together, it creates a cosmic convergence of sorts that couldn't be more satisfying without fireworks and a barbecue.

The battle unfolds quickly, lacking the detail of earlier struggles. But at this point in the story where multiple characters have received cosmic upgrades, it can't be that slow. Between the events of Age of Ultron and the upcoming events of Secret Wars, the fabric of the Marvel universe just can't take it. But it still puts all the right pieces in place and has them clash in a way that doesn't feel forced or random. It's like the opposite of the last two Transformers movies and without any overly gratuitous shots of female characters' butts.

That's not to say a female character doesn't steal the show. While the battle against the Slaughter Lords, Mr. Knife, and Ronan provide the meat of the struggle, it's Kitty Pryde who provides both the steak sauce and the desert. She's the one who ends up saving Spartax. She's the one who ends up defeating the Brood and the rest of Mr. Knife's forces. It turns out a cosmic powered Kitty Pryde is basically the anti-Dark Phoenix. She saves worlds and terrifies those who would destroy them. And she does this all in the presence of her boyfriend, Starlord. It's probably the most romantic gesture a girl could do for her lover that doesn't involve lingerie.

This resolution has plenty of cosmic muscle, fitting the scope and scale of the story in all the right ways. However, some parts were still rushed. After the defeat of the Brood, Ronan and the Slaughter Lords essentially cut their losses and decide that they're woefully overmatched against a cosmic powered Kitty Pryde. They're not entirely wrong. Even with cosmic power of their own, they know they have no chance against a girl who is doing everything she can to impress her boyfriend. It's not entirely forced, but it does make the end result feel somewhat abrupt. That's not to say they were completely defeated. They still left with cosmic power. That's a way better consolation prize than anything on The Price is Right.

However, the resolution of the battle isn't what gives the story it's greatest impact. With Mr. Knife and the Slaughter Lords defeated, some of the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy are given the chance to give up their cosmic power. Given their history of being corrupted by cosmic power, it's not an unreasonable chance to take. Some opt to take that chance. Others opt to keep their power, ensuring that this story will have some lasting effects. Some of those effects may still get retconned thanks to a convenient spell cast by the Scarlet Witch, but it still makes for a profound moment for certain characters. They got a taste of cosmic power and like vacation to Europe gone horribly wrong, it's bound to effect them in different ways.

But the biggest emotional impact of the Black Vortex comes from Kitty Pryde and Starlord. That's entirely fitting since this whole conflict began with the two of them dealing with Starlord's deranged father. After having dealt with him, they decide there's no use wasting their time with more dinner dates and cosmic bowling. Starlord decides to propose to Kitty Pryde on the spot. After a girl uses cosmic power to humiliate his tyrannical father, I think that seals it. Starlord would've been crazy if he didn't propose to her on the spot and the reactions from the X-men and the Guardians is entirely appropriate.

The entire Black Vortex crossover has been vast in terms of scope and scale, yet it never felt overly chaotic or contrived. Numerous characters had a chance to shine. And for once, a story that involved cosmic power didn't end in tragedy. Nobody died. Nobody came back to life. Instead, the biggest impact was a marriage proposal. In an era where too many great stories end with sacrifices that make the creators of Prozac even richer, Guardians of the Galaxy and X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1 offers something sweet, satisfying, and epic. Let's just hope that Peter Quill doesn't get marital advice from Peter Parker.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Friday, April 24, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue #119: Deceptive Dealings is LIVE and Bios Updates!

The X-men are no strangers to hidden agendas. Some of their greatest adversaries, such as Weapon X, are built around hidden agendas. This holds true in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Sometimes these agendas have to be hidden. When the X-men have two of the most powerful telepaths in the world in Professor Xavier and Jean Grey, they have to hide their secrets. And more often than not, those secrets are hidden for a reason.

This is one of the defining themes of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths. There are secrets and agendas that have been brewing behind the scenes for a long time now. Some go back to events that took place in X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers. Others go back into the unexplored segments of history that this fanfiction series has yet to reveal. From the moment X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths began, the clock has been ticking on an agenda the X-men can barely begin to understand. Now the final hour is upon them. Revelations that promise to rock the foundation of X-men Supreme are about to emerge.

I know that by exploring these revelations, I’ll be taking a chance with this fanfiction series. I’ll be doing something that’ll once again set it apart from any other medium of X-men. I’ve already made plenty of changes, but they’re hardly risky. Making Juggernaut the nephew of Professor Xavier or making Thunderbird a former lover of Jean Grey doesn’t fundamentally change these characters. What I’m about to do with this final leg of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths will do so much more.

It begins with an unanswered question involving Weapon Plus. There have already been some uncomfortable revelations concerning Sebastian Shaw and his connection to the techno-organic material that made Fantomex. There are also unanswered questions surrounding Sinister, who recently went out of his way to steal Warlock material from the ruins of the World on Genosha. What is the connection? And what role do the X-men and their allies play? Those questions will finally begin to get answered with this pivotal arc. It’ll also light the spark that will change X-men Supreme forever.

X-men Supreme Issue 119: Deceptive Dealings

In addition to these powerful revelations, I am continuing to work on updating the bios section. I’m trying my best to catch up so that everyone can be fully informed as X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths nears its end. This time, I’ve given some background to Magma. She made her debut in the Civilizations No Longer Lost arc. I've also crafted an entry for Fantomex, the latest living weapon in the world of X-men Supreme. Both sections should cover some of the details I was not able to reveal during the main story.

Magma Bio

Fantomex Bio

Make no mistake. The upcoming revelations in X-men Supreme will be pretty jarring. Some may not like it. Some may be upset. I understand this. X-men fans are as passionate as they come. I am one of them. And everything I do with this fanfiction series is done with the intent to give these characters the respect they deserve. But even for those who don’t like what happens, I want to hear from you. Please take the time to send me your feedback and/or outrage. Either contact me directly or post it in the issue. I’m always happy to chat or debate. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1

Maybe I've become a jaded drunk over the years or maybe my expectations have just become more realistic, but I've become numb to these big crossover events. I've seen too many of them amount to the comic book equivalent of a used tampon. Stories like the Fear Itself and Avengers vs. X-men show that it's unreasonable to expect that these stories end with unbroken spirits and intact assholes. For that very reason, crossover stories that are done right are all the more precious. They're like getting an extra lap dance at a strip club or a free blowjob from a Hooters waitress. It's something to cherish and enjoy for all its worth.

I freely admit I was not expecting the Black Vortex crossover to be anything special. But damn it, this story has found a way to inject so many awesome concepts into something that sounds like a story Chris Claremont told during the mid-80s. It took what the Trial of Jean Grey successfully established, showing that a decent crossover story between the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy isn't a fluke. It turns out that a story that involves mutants, talking trees, and cosmic-powered shit storms is a winning formula. I guess if a movie like Frozen and the Hangover can be a hit, why not?

This crossover story has spanned multiple titles and explored multiple characters. Yet it has found a way to remain coherent and awesome. It would be like me passing a sobriety test during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. So many characters have found ways to shine. Even Nova has had his moments. That alone is an accomplishment that I doubt Secret Wars will match. But after all these tie-ins and diverging conflicts, the final clash has arrived. The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy have to beat Mr. Knife before he tears the universe one too many assholes. Can Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1 provide a satisfying conclusion worthy of a Bankok massage parlor? The answer is a bit complicated, but in the best possible way.

Fittingly enough, Kitty Pryde sets the stage. She lays out the simple yet epic scenario. Spartax is encased in amber, thanks to Mr. Knife and Thane's douche-baggery. A group of cosmic-powered X-men and Guardians of the Galaxy are fighting off the Slaughter Lords to keep them from the Black Vortex. And the Brood are trying to turn the entire population of Spartax into all-you-can-eat alien buffet. It's as epic as it sounds. With so many characters involved and cosmic power in the mix, it should be utterly fucked up like the last three Phoenix Force retcons. But it wasn't. I read this drunk and I still understood it. For all the crossovers and tie-ins, this story has found a way to be concise enough for a drunk to follow. That alone is an accomplishment.

Also fittingly, it's Kitty Pryde who has to save Spartax, the planet her boyfriend's father tried to screw over in ways that even Richard Nixon would find excessive. She embraced the Black Vortex, becoming this uber cosmic spirit that looks like something Richard Gere would pray to. It's eerie, yet elegant. It's ominous, yet still sexy in a cosmic way. It's not Jean Grey level sexy, but it still has that epic cosmic scale. There's also some amazing inner monologue that helps Kitty describe what she's experiencing. Some of it sounds like what I thought the last time I took one too many hits of LSD, but most is completely genuine.

This has been one of the biggest strengths of the Black Vortex crossover. It has given every character a voice at some point. So many have had a chance to assess what it means to battle cosmic power and how it feels to either embrace or reject it. For a story that involves fighting Starlord's asshole father and Thanos' asshole son, it's amazingly profound. The fact it's so profound without the aid of weed is a hell of an accomplishment.

The stakes of the battle are never undersold. It isn't just the Slaughter Lords the X-men and Guardians have to deal with either. Even Ronan the Accuser has flown head-first into this cosmic shit storm. It already led to battle that laid waste to the Kree home planet, but that's never stopped him before. Even though it's his own damn fault for stealing the Black Vortex in the first place, he's blaming the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy for it. That sounds like an excuse that a corrupt police officer working for the LAPD would use, but it works just as well for Ronan.

The battle here is undeniably epic. However, it's lacking in details. Every character is just thrown into the mix. There are no individual struggles. And maybe that might be asking for too much when cosmic power is involved. A battle like that can only get so personal. When there's a cosmic power Ronan and a cosmic powered Groot in the same battle, there can't be too many intricacies. That's like asking someone at a Coldstone to strategically place every sprinkle on top of a hot fudge sundae. It doesn't matter how the sprinkles are ordered. It still tastes pretty damn good.

Usually, these kinds of cosmic battles end up tearing the universe a few extra assholes before someone gains the upper hand. But for once, that doesn't happen. Instead, a cosmic powered Kitty Pryde tips the scale. It doesn't take a tragic sacrifice. It doesn't require Tony Stark to shoot something with a big fucking gun. She just takes this vast power that she's been granted and uses it to remove the big amber shell around Spartax, thereby saving every living soul on that world and her friends.

I want to emphasize this again. Kitty Pryde used this cosmic power to save an entire world and nobody had to die as a result. That's pretty fucking remarkable considering how often cosmic-powered characters tend to die or sacrifice themselves. It's almost like a perverse tradition at Marvel that's second only to frat initiation rituals. Some might find it bland, but I think it's a welcome change after seeing one too many tragic outcomes from cosmic powered stories.

I'm not the only one who feels this way either. Everyone on Spartax, including the X-men and Guardians who were trapped, rejoice at Kitty Pryde's act of cosmic-level badassery. Nobody dies. Nobody is sacrificed. Everybody is saved and everybody cheers. Anyone who can't find satisfaction in that needs to go back to their goth music and shitty makeup. It's especially satisfying for Starlord, who saw earlier that he was too much of a dick to handle the power of the Black Vortex. But Kitty Pryde could handle it and she saved his world. That act should give him the least awkward boner in the history of the Marvel universe.

After this massive display of planetary justice, the Slaughter Lords wisely decide to cut their losses. Someone who can rip a planet-sized shell of amber away and crush a swarm of Brood is someone they don't want to fuck with. Even Ronan decided there's only so much accusing he can do for someone at that power level. He might as well be a traffic cop trying to give Vin Disel a parking ticket. And since Mr. Knife already managed to get his ass trapped in amber, they decide they've had enough cosmic mojo for one day. And since the Black Votex is still around, they figure they'll have other chances.

Now this is somewhat abrupt. The way the Slaughter Lords and Ronan retreat feels a bit rushed, even if it is understandable. They're smart for cutting their losses. They Slaughter Lords and Ronan have proven they're not the kind of thugs that a James Bond villain would hire. They got something out of this and were okay with how it panned out. However, the lack of a definitive defeat for them is still a bit disappointing even if it is logical on paper. Sometimes we can't expect logic to be epic unless Bill Nye is the one teaching it.

Now the Slaughter Lords are gone and so are the Brood. Spartax is safe and so are its people. So what's left for the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy? Some of them still have cosmic power that could corrupt them at any second. Then there's Gara, the ancient Dragonball Z ripoff who first got screwed over by the Black Vortex. She's fought hard to get it back and neither the X-men nor the Guardians are inclined to fight her for it. However, she understands that it's not good for the universe to have one too many cosmic characters running around.

So she makes an offer to those who submitted. They can give up their cosmic power and avoid further corruption, but warns them that rejecting it is kind of like spitting in the face of a Celestial. It may come back to bite them in the ass. And this kind of power does have a way of leaving scars, as though anyone who has ever known Jean Grey has to be warned of that shit. It still makes for an interesting dilemma in a series that has had plenty of them.

This leads to some internal debate, although not nearly on the same levels as we saw earlier in the series. There is some discussion among certain characters about whether to keep their cosmic enhancements. But some, like O5 Cyclops, don't need to discuss it. He already saw what happened to him when he embraced cosmic power. He has all the reason in the world to give it up. But the decisions for characters like Groot and O5 Iceman aren't as obvious. There's not a lot of discussions with them.

But what makes those decisions worthwhile is that some choose to keep their cosmic power, O5 Angel and Gamora being the most notable. This is actually pretty remarkable in the sense that it ensures this story will have a lasting impact. This isn't one of those stories that end like an episode of the Friends where everything goes back to normal at the end. There are going to be some lasting impacts. Some have already been revealed in other comics. It easily could've been undone so as not to fuck things up too much before Secret Wars. But that's not what happened and that makes these decisions more meaningful.

The one who probably has the most to lose is Beast, who is finally beginning to see that he might have been the omega level asshole by fucking with the timeline. He saw with his cosmic enhancements just how much he fucked up. Him keeping his cosmic power would be like Lance Armstrong keeping his medals. It just wouldn't be right. So he joins O5 Iceman, O5 Cyclops, and Groot in removing their cosmic enhancements. They don't seem to have any lasting scars initially, but I guess that's the benefit of Tony Stark not shooting it with a big ass gun.

With the decisions made, Gara leaves with the Black Vortex. Then the Guardians of the Galaxy do what they did on their last team-up with the X-men and take them home. But along the way, Kitty Pryde and Starlord have a nice moment. It turns out Kitty didn't give up her cosmic power. Why would she after she proved she was more than qualified to handle it? She passed the test that Jean Grey failed on multiple occasions, saving a world and not losing her fucking mind. She's earned the right to embrace these powers, if only for a while. And Starlord, having watched his girlfriend save his home planet, has every reason to romance the shit out of her. Any woman who saves a man's home planet and makes his asshole father look like a dick has earned a man's unconditional love. That's just a fact.

Starlord seems to understand this rule well because he does more than just share a few kisses and offer to take her on a fancy date. He actually does something that the editors at DC Comics swore they would never let their characters do. He gets down on one knee and asks Kitty Pryde to marry him. I'll give all the tweens a moment to squee as much as they need to. Men, feel free to squee as well. There's no shame in it.

Now I know the topic of marriage in comics has a permanent shit stain thanks to Peter fucking Parker, but I think there's still a place for it. And while I know the relationship between Starlord and Kitty Pryde is fairly new, having only begun after the Trial of Jean Grey, it's a relationship that has hit all the right chords. And let's face it, after Kitty Pryde saved his world, Starlord would be a total asshat if he didn't propose to Kitty. And in her cosmic state, she knows he's not just trying to get on her insurance plan so she says yes.

This is a beautiful moment for the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy. For Thane, Mr. Knife, and Ronan the Accuser, this is right up there with working late on a Saturday night. Mr. Knife is still encased in amber, which makes him a perfect addition for the Collector. Ronan is still pissed off that his planet was decimated, even though it was his own damn fault. But he's now a cosmic-powered douche so he has even fewer reasons to give a shit. These are some simple loose ends that are resolved in a very quick way, but at least they're not glossed over. These days, that alone counts for a lot.

And Thane, the son of Thanos, still wants to succeed where his father constantly fucked up. However, he knows he can't do that without the Black Vortex. He's going to keep looking for it, even though Gara has it now. It leaves open the possibility that we'll get something else out of this story down the line. Given the extent of its awesome, I can't say that's a bad thing.

But fuck Thane. Fuck Ronan the Accuser. And fuck Mr. Knife from here until the end of the multiverse. The X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy won the day and they deserve this happy moment. There's nothing ominous or dark about this ending. There's no eerie post-credits scene. We just get to see the X-men and the Guardians cheering as they hear that Starlord and Kitty Pryde are getting married. It's a beautiful moment. Even Magik smiles and she's got a fucking demon realm in her. Storm is so happy that she even asks Rocket Racoon to be her date to the wedding. It sounds like such a fucked up concept, but admit it. You want to see that and some of you might even want to jerk off to it.

There's no tragedy. There's no heartbreak. Kitty Pryde and Starlord have the happy ending that so few outside of a Disney movie get these days. It's basically the anti-Dark Phoenix Saga. Cosmic power corrupts some, but it also helps save the day. Kitty and Starlord were already at a crossroads with their relationship before this story began. Now they're getting married. It's the end of an epic journey that has a very satisfying conclusion. And an ending where nobody's heart gets broken or nobody's balls gets busted is epic in its own right.

Let me put this into perspective before my drunken ranting gets too slurred. This crossover story, the Black Vortex, did something pretty amazing. It told a big crossover story that involved cosmic power and it didn't involve someone dying or sacrificing themselves. Let me repeat that. This story involved cosmic power without someone having to make a sacrifice or get needlessly killed. I think everyone who has been burned out on stories like the Phoenix Saga can appreciate just how remarkable an accomplishment that is. Not only did nobody die here, but there's actually going to be a wedding now and Storm might actually take Rocket Racoon as a date. I dare anybody to say with a straight face they don't want to see that.

As remarkable an achievement as the Black Vortex crossover was, it still isn't on the same epic scale as the Phoenix Saga. Very few stories are. This story succeeded in telling a story that covered a lot of characters and utilized cosmic forces, but it did so in a way that never got too chaotic. I never felt the need to sober up in order to follow along and for a story this big, that's saying a lot. As a drunk, I thank Sam Humphries for being so considerate.

There were plenty of successes here and Kitty Pryde being the one that ended this conflict was by far the best. However, the end result was a bit rushed. And while there was some debate over giving up the power of the Black Vortex, it wasn't as passionate as earlier discussions over it's power. Some still gave it up and some still kept it so at the very least, the impact of this story will be felt beyond Kitty Pryde and Starlords pending nuptials. It's a cosmic story that ended on a happy note, something that helps make this crossover story something to be cherished. That's why I give Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-men: Black Vortex Omega #1 a 9 out of 10. It's a story that has exceeded expectations and proved once again that the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy are a winning combination. I guess it's just hard to go wrong with stories involving space pirates, talking raccoons, and inter-stellar romance. Nuff said!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cross Culture Convergence: Ms. Marvel #14

The following is my review of Ms. Marvel #14, which was posted on

Marvel has achieved some remarkable accomplishments in making Kamala Khan the new Ms. Marvel. It’s a concept that really shouldn’t have worked in the real world or the world Fox News would have everyone believes is real. How could giving the title of Ms. Marvel to a 16-year-old Pakistani-American teenager from Jersey City possibly work? That sounds more like a failed sitcom from Michael Moore’s fantasy world than a bold new direction for the Marvel Universe. But it’s worked in ways that defy the physics of both the real world and the comic book world.

Kamala Khan’s life and story has become one of the most compelling narratives Marvel has to offer. Seeing Captain America beat up Hydra or watching Peter Parker break up with his girlfriend for the 52,281th time might be classics, but Kamala’s story is just so refreshing and novel. And what makes it all the more remarkable is that it has been able to tell her story without resorting to one too many cultural stereotypes. She’s still a Muslim girl in a Muslim family that takes their religion seriously, but it doesn’t dominate the narrative. The character of Kamala Khan never becomes secondary to the culture in which she comes from.

In doing so, Ms. Marvel has shown that different cultures are more alike than anyone on Fox News will ever admit. There’s nothing culturally unique about parents wanting their children to marry successful, respectable spouses. Whether it’s Karachi or Cancun, parents are going to be nervous whenever their teenage daughter lets her hormones draw her to a cute guy. And Kamala Khan’s family has embodied this sentiment in ways that every parent from every culture not associated with hippies can understand.

Their concerns about Kamala’s infatuation with a new boy end up being justified, but not because he has a neck tattoo or a tongue piercing. In Ms. Marvel #14, this new love interest that supercharged Kamala’s teenage hormones proves that no amount of culture or religion will keep teenagers from making mistakes when dealing with the opposite sex. But it’s the impact and nature of the mistake that makes this more impactful than a Saved By The Bell rerun.

Kamala Khan’s teenage melodrama doesn’t follow the same formula that every teen drama has tried to mimic since 90210. This new love interest, Kamran, hits all the right emotional chords. She doesn’t sweep Kamala off her feet like some guy with a French accent and the body of Channing Tatum. He’s actually able to relate to Kamala on a personal level and not just because he also happens to be Inhuman.

Even though he comes off as the kind of guy her parents would want her to make wedding plans for by the end of the week, Kamala’s interest in him feels truly genuine. It isn’t just teenage hormones urging her to be irresponsible in ways that would horrify her parents. She actually feels genuine affection for this boy. On some levels, it’s a red flag. Kamran feels like one of those tantalizing offers that usually ends up being a Ponzi scheme, but it’s tantalizing to the point where Kamala doesn’t want it to be a red flag.

It’s a big part of what makes Kamala Khan such a compelling character. Her story resonates so well that it’s hard to not care about her and her personal life. She’s lovable to the point where you really do want to root for her, especially when it comes to finding happiness with the opposite sex. As the negative fan reaction to One More Day showed with Spider-Man, fans really do care about the personal lives of these characters, sometimes to a disturbing level.

In addition, this genuine emotional connection between Kamala and Kamran also leads to some very relevant discussions about Kamala’s culture and the clashes that often come along with it. There’s a very candid discussion between Bruno, Kamala’s best friend who finds himself locked in the friend-zone, and Kamala’s pious brother. It’s a discussion that is usually either glossed over or grossly stereotyped, dating in between cultures. But there’s a reason for this taboo and it has nothing to do with making for bad reality shows.

There’s a real and sincere interest among parents. They genuinely want to preserve their culture and their family for future generations. It’s something parents have been doing for as long as culture has been relevant. It’s not just Pakistani immigrants either. Other religions and ethnic groups want to continue their cherished traditions, even if it causes conflict. When Bruno and Kamala’s brother talk about it, neither one of them comes off as insincere or mean about it. That’s what makes it meaningful. That’s also what gives the turning point in the story its impact.

Like every other failed Ponzi scheme in history, those red flags about Kamran turned out to be true and Kamala Khan’s hormones wouldn’t let her see it. Kamran, a guy who was so easy to root for, turns out to have an ulterior motive. And it puts Kamala in new Inhumans-level conflict. However, it’s not the conflict itself that gives the story its strength. It’s the emotional impact of seeing this boy that Kamala clearly felt for turning against her.

It really shouldn’t be surprising, a handsome new guy turning out to be another caricature from a Revenge of the Nerds movie. But it still has an emotional impact because Kamala Khan is just so easy to root for. Seeing this promising love interest blow up in her face has more of an impact than watching her fight killer robots or giant crocodiles. The impact of Ms. Marvel #14 is a testament to just how much we’ve come to care about Kamala Khan. Like so many other teenage girls, she learned the hard way that cute boys will take advantage of them if they let their hormones overshadow their judgment. It’s a lesson she’ll probably learn more than once, but one that’ll make her stronger and more lovable in the long run.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #40

I'm convinced that kids these days don't learn enough hard lessons at a young age. I know that sounds like something a cantankerous blow-hard would say on a Fox News segment, but I think it's a real problem. Too many kids don't learn how the world is capable of fucking them over until its too late. The solutions offered in All-New X-men are a bit impractical. I don't doubt that sending kids to the future to see how their older, burned out selves failed to benefit from having unrealistic expectations would effectively get the point across. Until Apple creates a time travel feature on their next smartphone (which I'm sure they're working this very moment), most kids aren't going to get that lesson.

In this respect, the O5 X-men have an undeniable advantage. They've already tried to make the most of it since All-New X-men began. Granted, their efforts have had mixed results at best. They're still teenagers last I checked. Teenagers can only be so competent, even in the face of hard lessons. They've had to learn a lot of unpleasant shit about themselves and the world. And it doesn't just involve paying taxes or dealing with bullshit parking tickets. But at their core, the O5 X-men cling to that idealism that made them so endearing. We know their spirits are going to be crushed, as the spirits of all teenagers are inevitably crushed when they learned how badly high school prepared them for the real world. But All-New X-men #40 helps show that the O5 X-men are better-equipped than most teenagers and being in the future puts them in an even better position to use that.

The O5 X-men kind of need that opportunity because, like most high school graduates that don't have trust funds, the future is full of people who have already had their spirits thoroughly crushed. And like Homer Simpson to free beer, certain places attract those with crushed spirits. There was once a time when Utopia, the crown jewel of Cyclops' plan to spit in the face of Norman Osborn, embodied all the hope and optimism that most high school freshman have on their first day. Now, thanks to the Phoenix Force and the Avengers, it's a barren wasteland that's only slightly less dilapidated than downtown Detroit.

Naturally, it makes for a tempting target for criminals, pirates, bandits, and guys on the run from paying back alimony. A bunch of Jack Sparrow wannabes decide to test their luck at raiding what's left of Utopia in hopes of finding something they can trade for beer, hookers, or shitty tattoos. They probably should've tried their luck in Vegas first because they get ambushed by a shadowy group of mutants who don't take kindly to visitors and decide to waste their miserable asses. It might seem harsh for a bunch of no-name thugs, but these guys thought it was a good idea to raid a place where the Avengers got their asses kicked. It's just hard to feel sorry for that kind of stupidity.

This shit storm is nothing but a wet fart for the O5 X-men, who just returned from a mission that involved fighting cosmic-powered aliens and Starlord's asshole father. To say they're relieved to be back on a planet where their biggest concern is killer robots and crazy religious zealots would be an understatement to say the least. I'm sure fighting an army of Sentinels would be like a Sweedish massage by Kate Upton at this point. That makes their reaction to being back on Earth satisfying and perfectly befitting of a bunch of teenagers. They treat being on Earth the way most teenagers would treat their wi-fi if they lost it for more than an hour. They all nicely reflect on what they just faced with the Black Vortex and how awesome it is to be light years away from shit like that. It also reflects on how they have no idea just how fucked everything got while they were gone with Cyclops closing the New Xavier School. But like a bunch of kids on their last day of their freshman year of high school, they deserve at least a little relief before their spirits are crushed.

It's not just genuine. It's a fitting transition from the events of the Black Vortex and the events in Uncanny X-men. It would've been a lot easier to just have the O5 X-men come back on Earth, shrug their shoulders, and go back to bitching about how expensive gas prices are in the future. But even teenagers jaded by MTV and American Idol are capable of having real sentiment. And that sentiment is all the more sincere when Magik comes by to give them some greasy burgers. I don't care how many wonders the universe has to offer. None will ever compare to the feeling of biting into a big, greasy cheeseburger. It's so fitting that it makes me hungry to the point where I want to give the finger to Morgan Sporlock.

But as nice as this transition from cosmic forces to cheeseburgers might be, it is not the moment that has given everyone from every bullshit family values organization to irate comic book fans on message boards a paralyzing seizure. It was already leaked yesterday and I already did a blog post on it, but this is where it happens. This is where O5 Jean takes O5 Iceman aside and flat out tells him she knows he's gay. There's nothing built up about it. There were no hints dropped at any of the other moments where Iceman has been surrounded by omega level telepaths. She just flat out tells him she knows because she's read his thoughts. He didn't give her permission, but that hasn't stopped her at any point in this series so why should it stop her now?

Like I said, I've already given my sentiment on this issue. I have no problems with Iceman being gay. This isn't as fucked up an idea as some make it out to be. Marvel made Colossus gay in Ultimate at a time when Ultimate wasn't the malignant tumor it is now and that got precisely zero attention from CNN. But that situation was different because this just feels a lot more forced. It's not just that Iceman has an extensive romantic history that includes Mystique, Kitty Pryde, and Emma Frost. It's that he's been living around powerful telepaths all his life. And at no point did any of them pick up on the fact that the idea of Ricky Martin shaking his ass gave him a boner. There's the kind of gross oversight that leads to wars in the Middle East and then there's this.

I'm not saying it's a story that shouldn't be explored, but it's another bullshit retcon at a time when the X-books are already dealing with enough of that shit. We just saw Marvel snap their fingers and make the Maximoff twins unrelated to Magneto. Now they're making Iceman gay. Maybe it's easier on some levels because Iceman has been negated as a character so much over the years that if he were a former child star, he would've been to rehab three times already. He's the only one of the O5 who hasn't had anything meaningful happen with him since All-New X-men began. This just feels out-of-place and forced, a way of making O5 Iceman seem relevant in a way he's never been. Maybe if this occurred during the late 90s or the Bush administration, it would've been shocking. But right now, it just feels like too much of a gimmick.

Beyond the contrived nature of this revelation, O5 Jean comes off with more sincerity than anyone is giving her credit for. Sure, her decision to just up and out him came out of nowhere, but she's not forceful or mean about it. She's actually somewhat playful and friendly, which is fitting given O5 Iceman's nature. O5 Iceman reacts somewhat harshly at first, but he doesn't come off as some kid who just found out his prom date is a transvestite hooker. His reaction does feel real. He doesn't immediately turn into Elton John or run to wherever Ted Haggard got treatment. He just grits his teeth and deals with it in a way that 99 percent of teenagers fail to do.

As contrived as it is, they do make an effort to confront some of the ramifications. They talk about his older self and how he's dated women like Kitty Pryde. Considering that Kitty Pryde is now in space dating Starlord, that's probably not a good example. They probably could've gone over all the other women his older self dated, but that doesn't change the fact that none of them worked out and not for the same reason Tony Stark's relationships never work out. They even touch on how he might be bisexual. O5 Jean makes it clear that his thoughts are as gay as Little Richard's wardrobe. So there's no ambiguity. O5 Iceman is gay. Fuck whatever the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family says. This shit is canon now.

It's a fucked up moment by so many measures. However, what isn't fucked up is how supportive O5 Jean is. She doesn't berate him. She doesn't push him more than she already has. Eventually, she and O5 Iceman share a nice hug. There have been many hugs throughout this series. They've all been meaningful in their own unique way. I'm not sure how much meaning this one has, but it's still sweet. A gay kid and his best gal pal hug it out. It feels like a scene cut right out of Modern Family, minus Sophia Veraga's sexy accent. And if there's one thing All-New X-men has proven since it began, it's that a hug from Jean Grey is second only to the Phoenix Force in terms of sheer power.

I'll give the family values crowd a moment to stop shitting themselves. Then we'll confront someone whose capacity to be aggravated is the third most powerful force in the Marvel universe behind hugs and cosmic birds. Since Avengers vs. X-men, Maria Hill has gone out of her way to get overly aggravated by mutants. She got so aggravated that at one point, she developed the urge to fuck Cyclops. That's a kind of aggravation few ever achieve unless they're trying to debate a creationist. After a group of thugs got their internal organs rearranged on Utopia, it comes to the attention of Maria Hill. And naturally, her first reaction is to bang her head against the table. It's funny and fitting, but it also gives the impression that she needs a hug more than O5 Iceman at this point.

There's still not much known about this conflict, only that it's giving Maria Hill a migraine already. But the O5 X-men aren't done diving head-first into the teenage melodrama that now makes up over 80 percent of MTV's programming. There is actually a more relevant issue than O5 Iceman's sexuality and one that actually has some meaningful backstory. After the events of the Black Vortex, some kept their cosmic powers and O5 Angel was one of them. And like shooting meth directly into the cerebellum, it's bound to have an effect. However, he hasn't gone Dark Phoenix and started feasting on alien planets just yet. He's still O5 Angel and that O5 Angel enjoys going on nice flights with pretty girls in his arms.

This is where X-23 comes in. Before the O5 X-men got caught up in another cosmic clusterfuck, O5 Angel and X-23 went on a date. It was about as meaningful as most teenage dates, complete with someone losing a nipple ring and a nice moment after. Not much has really unfolded between them since and that's to be expected, given all the distractions. Most teenagers get distracted by school, parents, and binge watching the Walking Dead. O5 Angel and X-23 had a much more valid excuse, but now they have time to catch up and they take advantage of that. I say it beats just shrugging it off because since when do hormonal teenagers shrug off melodrama?

It leads to another dramatic moment that has much more context than O5 Iceman coming out of the closet. X-23 and O5 Angel have a nice, in depth chat about the events of the Black Vortex. X-23 isn't too fond of the idea of him keeping his cosmic power, probably for the same reason most teenage girls wouldn't be fond of their latest love interest shooting a mix of steroids and crack. But it actually turns into a much more emotional conversation and one that carries just the right weight.

Since All-New X-men began, O5 Angel has been a black sheep in that he didn't want to stay in the future. He saw what he became and he hated it. He didn't want to have anything to do with his fucked up future self, who now carries himself like a lobotomized hippie who never knew he once regularly banged a hot ninja telepath. That truly is a hell beyond words. But with the Black Vortex, O5 Angel took a chance to do and be something different. And part of that involves him telling X-23 that he's in love with her.

Now I don't think this means everyone should run out and start Angel/X-23 fan clubs. He's a teenage boy. He's probably willing to tell any girl who lets him see her in her underwear that he loves her. But given how their unique relationship has unfolded, it still feels sincere. And with the transformation of the Black Vortex, he's able to relate to X-23 even more now so it feels less like a drunken fling and more like an actual plot that's worth exploring. That is, of course, dependant on Secret Wars not pissing it all away.

Then there are the Utopians themselves. Remember them? The guys who got about as much attention as the last Larry the Cable Guy movie? They're supposed to be the next big conflict, but so far teen melodrama and bullshit retcons have trumped them. And no, that shouldn't surprise anyone. At the very least, they do kick up a new shit storm when they shoot down a SHIELD transport vessel that's trying to land on Utopia. They then step out to reveal that the Utopians are actually a few familiar faces and they're not inclined to let SHIELD fuck up Utopia more than it already has been. Their presence is still secondary, but anyone who shoots down a SHIELD ship definitely becomes more relevant in later stories so they do give us something to work with in that respect.

In the context of bringing the O5 X-men back from space and having them deal with the aftermath of the Black Vortex, this issue did a lot of things right. Their reaction to being back on the good old planet Earth and not having to deal with talking raccoons and a cosmic-powered Gamora was genuine and believable. It also picked up on the melodrama between O5 Angel and X-23 that some less sober readers might have forgotten about. Sure, it felt like it was ripped from a rerun of the Vampire Diaries, but it's perfectly consistent with the melodrama that we've seen in this series since it began.

But beyond this context, it felt like the story tried to do too much. We really didn't get to learn much about the Utopians, other than they're probably not fans of Pirates of the Caribbean. It dedicated a lot of time to O5 Jean getting O5 Iceman out of the closet in the most contrived way possible. With only one issue left before Uncanny X-men #600, it feels like there's a lot more that will go unaddressed. Even if O5 Iceman's sexuality becomes a major story, the way it began in this issue just felt way too forced.

That said, the issue itself nicely continues the O5 X-men's story after the events of Black Vortex. It doesn't ignore the recent events of Uncanny X-men either. It does actually fit into the larger narrative of the X-men comics, something that seems downright alien to anyone who dares to follow DC's ongoing Convergence event. It also has a number of moments that aren't contrived or forced. The only problem is that there might not be enough time to make something of them. I give All-New X-men #40 a 7 out of 10. There are a lot of compelling elements here, but it doesn't look like many of them will be properly explored. In the same way we'll probably never know what the honeymoon of Charles Xavier and Mystique was like, we'll probably never see these elements get the refinement they deserve. But given how Emma Frost would probably laugh herself to death at the thought of Xavier marrying Mystique and Iceman being gay, it's probably for the best. Nuff said!