Friday, August 28, 2015

X-men Supreme Reflections: Emma Frost PREVIEW!

There are certain characters that inspire a special level of passion. And of the many characters in the X-men mythos, few inspire the kind of passion generated by Emma Frost. She’s a character that has undergone many changes and transformations throughout the history of X-men. I’ve had her go through more than a few here in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Just like the X-men comics, I introduced Emma Frost during the X-men Supreme Phoenix Saga. She played a critical role in luring Jean Grey into the clutches of the Inner Circle. While it was later revealed that Emma Frost did not do this of her own volition, it highlights some of the core themes about her character.

Emma Frost, in her many incarnations, has often been at the mercy of moral ambiguity. She comes from a world of wealth and privilege. She trained herself to navigate these morally ambiguous areas to get ahead. There have been times when this has made her an enemy of the X-men. As the White Queen, she was once the X-men’s most daunting psychic foe. But Emma Frost is not someone who lets herself get lost in these morally gray areas. She never lets herself become like Sebastian Shaw, Selene, or Sinister. She’s never let herself become a girl scout either. And that’s one of the major appeals of her character.

When it comes to fighting the kinds of battles that the X-men fight, it’s not always possible to be completely moral and completely ethical. There are many in the X-men, especially Professor Xavier, who aren’t willing to compromise those ethics to get the job done. Emma Frost, however, is willing. She’s shown this time and again throughout her history in the comics. Over time, she has distanced herself from the devious traditions of the Inner Circle. However, she still maintains a distinctly harsh, yet charming personality that many have come to love.

I’ve done my best to capture that personality in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. That doesn’t just mean giving her the necessary ties to the Inner Circle. Emma Frost has a number of circumstances in X-men Supreme that set her apart from the comics. As I revealed in the X-men Supreme Phoenix Saga, she was an early member of the X-men. Later on in X-men Supreme Issue 99: Escaping Destiny, I revealed that Emma Frost left the Inner Circle when she found out they used her eggs to make clones that Sebastian Shaw called the Stepford Cuckoos. This path has taken her in many directions throughout X-men Supreme, but there’s a lot more to learn about who Emma Frost is.

I’ve been waiting quite a while to do an entry of X-men Supreme Reflections for Emma, as I’m sure her passionate fans have as well. I had to wait because I wanted to make sure the story surrounding the Stepford Cuckoos and her betrayal of the X-men in the Phoenix Saga was explained. These events firmly entrench Emma Frost in that morally gray world that she’s so comfortable in. And even though she’s now the headmaster of the Academy of Tomorrow, she’s still going to have to navigate that world. As always, I’ve prepared a brief glimpse into the kind of life Emma Frost has lived in the world of X-men Supreme.

The aftermath of my father’s death can only be described as a fiasco wrapped in a disaster encased in a catastrophe. I was never the same. My siblings were never the same, albeit in a different capacity. Losing a lousy father was a secondary concern. Not having any money is what really spooked them. Adrienne and Cordelia tried to acquire what money they could to keep the family going. Christian took whatever he needed to continue his drug habit and skipped town. For me, the shock was almost as bad as my uncontrolled telepathy.

In the weeks that followed I struggled to process my father’s death and hearing the thoughts of others. All around me I was surrounded by crude, dishonest brutes whose thoughts revealed their true nature. I sensed liars, thieves, and people who were just plain crude. They would act one way and think another. It was a troubling sensation and one that dented my respect for humanity.

I remember at my father’s funeral sensing the thoughts of the priest. While he was talking about death and the heavens, I heard him thinking about how he was so sick of doing burials for rich pricks like the Frosts. I wouldn’t have thought less of him for just that. Then he had to project how he wanted to get back to snuggling with his boyfriend. By boyfriend I meant a 19-year-old meth dealing male prostitute. It seemed as though nobody had any humanity. Any good a person showed was just a façade.

It got to the point where I started fighting back. With my telepathy I found out about all the sordid (and illegal) activities my sisters were doing. I found out about everyone Adrienne was sleeping with, which in and of itself is enough to fill several minds. I also found out the lengths Cordelia was going to in order to get our fortune back. I was so sick of their deception that I threatened to expose them. Their response was to call the nearest mental hospital and have me committed. That was the last time I ever saw my sisters and I hope I never see them again.

Whatever sisterly affection I had for those two was completely lost in that mental ward. That was a new level of torment that I don’t care to experience again. I later found out that Adrienne slept with the head of that hospital and made sure that I would cause them no further trouble. I was kept in a secluded cell, given no means of contacting the outside world, and constantly drugged. Being a fifteen-year-old pretty blond didn’t help either. Some of the orderlies got a little too ‘friendly’ to say the least. I was rendered completely powerless. It was in that state where I decided that I started to fight back.

First, I had to gain control over my powers. This was an arduous process. Every day during my brief moments of mental clarity, I worked on focusing my telepathy. There was no one there to help me. I had to help myself. Driven by so much anger and bitterness, I was plenty motivated.

Eventually, I refined my mental powers to the point where I could start influencing the thoughts of others. I started small, tweaking the perceptions of the doctors so they wouldn’t give me as many drugs. Before long, I made it so they would walk into my room and only think they administered a dose. Once I was fully coherent, I planned my escape. I read the minds of every nurse and doctor to find a way out. Adrienne made sure I was kept in a very secure wing so I had to use drastic measures.

One night an armed security guard walked by my door. I pushed my telepathy to the limits and took control of his mind. I had him let me out and then I had him escort me out of the building. Along the way other guards and doctors came running at me. I had the guard shoot them or lock them out. I’m pretty sure at least one person died as a result. I don’t care to know if he did. When I was finally out, I had the guard give me his car keys and then I erased his memories of the whole evening. I may have erased more since I was so inexperienced at the time, but I didn’t care.

It set a new and dangerous precedent. Now I was free and had a new skill to help me fight back against a corrupt world. Adrienne had her sexuality, Cordelia had her brains, and Christian had his fearless decadence. I had my telepathy. I planned on using it to fight my way to the top, no matter what the cost. It was that foolish mentality that led me to making the biggest mistake of my life.

Characters like Emma Frost are important for the future of X-men Supreme because she’s one of those characters that fans care deeply about. I want to respect that passion as much as possible. With recent news that Emma Frost will be among the X-men who are MIA after Secret Wars, I want to give her fans something they can enjoy until she returns. That’s why it’s very important for her fans and X-men fans in general to continue to provide feedback on my handling of this fanfiction series. Either contact me directly or post your comments in the issues. I’m always open to feedback. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Old Man Logan #4

When you find a winning formula, the smart and sensible thing to do is stick with it until it stops working. But for some people, finding shit that works and is sufficiently awesome just isn't enough. They have to take it ten or so steps ahead of where people are currently giving a fuck. Naturally, this tends to be confusing and infuriating. It makes me wonder if some people are just trying too hard to out-think themselves or they just have a shitty weed dealer.

Wolverine is one of those characters who didn't need to be reinvented. But at some point, someone decided that being the gruff, badass, lovable brute that Chris Claremont and Frank Miller helped perfect just wasn't enough. They (and by they I also mean Chris Claremont) had to make him this guy who could be everything to everybody. He could be a badass, a teacher, a mentor, a father-figure, a lover, and pretty much everything else James Franco pretends to be. The problem is, this doesn't make him more awesome. This just makes him more of a douche.

That's why Old Man Logan is so refreshing. This is a Wolverine without all the failed attempts to make him everything to everyone in the X-men and the entire Marvel universe for that matter. This is a jaded, old, don't-give-a-fuck version of Wolverine who dares to give the finger to a god-powered Dr. Doom. That makes him, by far, the most likable character in Secret Wars to date. He's been defying Doom, picking fights with Thors, and hopping across various AUs. And it's been an awesome ride every step of the way. Old Man Logan #4 continues that ride and I'm just clenching my asshole hoping that nobody tries to fuck with this winning formula this time.

Thankfully for Wolverine and my asshole, Brian Michael Bendis doesn't just stick to that winning formula. He adds a little napalm and tobasco sauce. Old Man Logan managed to piss off both Apocalypse and the Thor Corps in the previous issue? Why? Because fuck you, that's why. That has become Old Man Logan's default excuse and it works. However, it also landed him in the closest thing Dr. Doom has to a Hell in Battleworld. It's a world populated by zombies, symbiotes, and Fox lawyers. And it's where Old Man Logan ends up.

But does this means he stops being badass and starts whining for a deal from Mephisto? Fuck no. He's Wolverine, not Peter Parker. He decides to fight. And thanks to more beautiful art from Andrea Sorrentino, it's the kind raw, violent, visceral fighting that brings out the best in Wolverine. It's the kind of violence that Dick Cheney probably finds sexually arousing. On top of that, we get some insanely badass inner monologues that show just how driven and tough this version of Wolverine is. He's old, he's grumpy, and he doesn't give a fuck. That's Wolverine at his most pure.

He fights and he fights through this insanely visceral shit that would make Freddy Kruger himself sick to his stomach. He continues musing about how far he's come and how fucked his is in his world. It's worth remembering that the Wolverine in the Old Man Logan universe is more pissed off than most and not just because he never got to touch Jean Grey's tits. He killed all his friends and loved ones in that world. He's a broken, pissed off, beat up motherfucker. So zombies and symbiotes aren't going to slow him down.

But it's not all brutality and torture porn, much to the chagrin of the Charles Manson crowd. There are also a few flashbacks of the family Wolverine had in Old Man Logan. It's the family he had to leave behind in order to give a sufficient middle finger to Dr. Doom. It's an important detail because it shows that as badass as Old Man Logan is, he's still a man who had a family. He's not completely broken. That means he still has a chance to fuck up Dr. Doom's plans for all the right reasons.

However, is Old Man Logan is going to succeed in pissing off a god-powered Dr. Doom, he's going to need help. He's already gotten his share of help from various X-men in various worlds. Sure, they didn't stop him from getting his ass shot into Battleworld's darkest buttholes, but they still helped him from being nothing more than target practice for the Thor Corps. But who can help him in a shit hole like this? Who besides him could even survive and not go Deadpool-level insane?

How about She-Hulk? She's the only one who can survive like Wolverine and still look good in a thong. Old Man Logan manages to find her in a pretty demoralized state. Apparently, she tried to make a logical, concise legal argument against Dr. Doom. He rewarded her the same way Fox News rewards such arguments and banished her to this hell. She reveals just how fucked this place is. Even she can't smash her way out of it. But she's one of the few who aren't Wolverine or clones of Wolverine or rip-offs of Wolverine who can survive. In terms of allies, this is probably as good as he could've hoped for. The fact she has nice tits is a bonus for any old man.

Old Man Logan and She-Hulk have a nice, meaningful chat that gives some context to just how fucked they are. This barren landscape is apparently so big that even the Hulk can't just jump out of it using shitty effects from an Ang Lee movie. There's no sense of direction. It's just zombies and symbiotes as far as the eye can see. Dr. Doom wanted to make this the kind of place that would make a North Korean prison camp seem like a luxurious resort. I think it's safe to say he exceeded and overachieved.

Beyond the grim circumstances, it's an appropriate exchange that reveals how crushing this place is. Even She-Hulk, who is a fucking Hulk mind you, is close to her breaking point. But Old Man Logan isn't ready to stop giving the middle finger to Dr. Doom. He's still willing to push his already insanely over-powered durability to the limit. But he needs She-Hulk's help. It's a nice moment that shows that in addition to being insanely badass, Wolverine knows how to inspire people and not just bartenders and Asian hookers.

The fighting gets more brutal. At this point, that's like saying Jennifer Lopez's ass is getting sexier. It seems impossible, but it just keeps happening. Andrea Sorrentino's beautiful artwork continues to shine, showing every visceral detail that can be shown. It effectively brings out the most feral components of Wolverine's persona. He's less a grumpy old man here and more a deranged, razor-clawed death machine. He's like Wolverine with a hangover and on a Monday morning. The circumstances bring out the best in him and it's truly a sight to behold.

Wolverine fans, at this point I'm going to give you a moment to wipe the tears of joy from your eyes. I know you'll need it. I think I speak for all of us when I say it has been way too long since we've seen something this awesome.

However, all the brutality and badassery in the world only goes so far in a domain where zombies and symbiotes run wild and have too much free time on their hands. At some point, Old Man Logan needs to get the fuck out of this place and find a more appropriate part of Battleworld where he can fuck up Dr. Doom's unholy vision. He can't get there just be clawing everything in front of him, although that has been pretty effective to this point.

This is where She-Hulk comes in. As demoralized as she is, I get the sense Old Man Logan's don't-give-a-fuck attitude has inspired her. It may have even made her a little horny. She finally gets in on the action, mixing in a little Hulk-style smashing with Wolverine's adamantium-laced stabbing. It's like chocolate and peanut butter. It's as delicious as it sounds. But to get him the fuck out of this hell, they need to do something both badass and smart.

So what could possibly meet that criteria? How about the ultimate fastball special? Take the strength of the Hulk and the durable, don't-give-a-fuck attitude of Old Man Logan and maximize it's potential. It's one of those ideas that doesn't sound possible without a few shots of tequila and a whole lot of blow. But fuck if it isn't appropriate for a situation like this. And fuck if it doesn't work. Sure, it means Old Man Logan gets thrown across Battleworld like a feather shot out of a rail gun, but it gets him out of zombie/symbiote land and send shim crashing into another domain of Battleworld. And no matter where he ends up, it can't possibly be anywhere nearly as fucked as the one he just came from. Right? Right?!

Wrong, motherfucker! He just exchanged one Battleworld hell hole for another. Because now Old Man Logan finds himself in Ultimate Marvel, also known as the infected rectal wart of Marvel Comics. This really isn't much of an upgrade over a barren wasteland full of zombies and symbiotes. At least in that domain, there's plenty to stab and get pissed at. In this world, no amount of stabbing and fastball specials will unfuck the series of clusterfucks that is Ultimate Marvel. It's like Old Man Logan just can't catch a break, but why would we want him to at this point? If any world needs more stabbing from Wolverine, it's this one.

Well, I can now stop clenching my asshole for one reason, but I'll have to clench it again for another. Old Man Logan and his don't-give-a-fuck attitude in a world with a god-powered Dr. Doom has put him in yet another hell. First, it was Age of Apocalypse. Then, it was the barren wasteland populated by zombies, symbiotes, and probably meth-addicted Raiders fans. In each world, Old Man Logan has found a way to be the same, insanely badass self he hasn't been allowed to be for years. Now, he has to be that self in the rotting butthole that is Ultimate Marvel. I didn't think I could love a crazy old man not named Stan Lee any more, but Old Man Logan keeps proving it with every issue.

If you're a Wolverine fan, you should already be jerking off to this issue. If you're Hugh Jackman, you should be sleeping with this comic under your pillow and memorize every single panel in preparation for the last Wolverine movie. If Wolverine were a precious stone, this series would be the fucking Hope Diamond. It is the most polished, pristine, and visually stunning work of Wolverine since the Claremont/Miller days. I don't have to sober up to know that's a big statement. But Brian Michael Bendis and Andrea Sorrentino have worked some omega level awesome with this series and I can no longer deny the extent of its awesome. I give Old Man Logan #4 a perfect 10 out of 10. If you love Wolverine, this comic should be enshrined in an adamantium case. If you hate Wolverine and can't find a way to enjoy this series, then chances are we should never meet in a bar. Nuff said!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Meddling Progress: Wonder Woman #43

The following is my review of Wonder Woman #43, which was posted on

If there’s one thing that the success of HGTV has taught us, it’s that society has a weakness for reclamation projects. In the same way certain women can’t help but fall for the bad boys in hope of saving them, there’s a kind of broken character that draws us in. Like Pamela Anderson at a hair band reunion tour, we can’t help but embrace these characters. As it stands, Donna Troy is the comic book equivalent of a burned out 80s rock star that just got out of rehab.

Her introduction to the post-Flashpoint era might as well have come with a bad handicap and adamantium shackles. She entered the world as a pawn, which is somehow worse than being another illegitimate offspring of Zeus. Her first act was the textbook definition of a war crime. Even the ancient Mongols would’ve raised an eyebrow at slaughtering an entire population of men that happened to be brothers of the Amazons. While she wasn’t completely control of her faculties at the time, she still has to live with that burden the same way Hallie Berry has to live with her role in the Catwoman movie.

The aftermath of this atrocity has served as the foundation of a new era for Wonder Woman. She’s now the acting God of War, Queen of the Amazons, and an active member of the Justice League. Even Hillary Clinton would call her an overachiever at this point. But while she’s trying to shoulder the burden of all these responsibilities, she still hasn’t come up with a way to deal with Donna Troy. It’s a story that has been set up and teased. Now, in Wonder Woman #43, that story finally starts to unfold.

It’s a story that follows many of the same themes that Wonder Woman has been exploring since the New 52 reboot. It has mischievous gods whose idea of entertainment is tormenting mortals and frustrating Wonder Woman. It has colorful characters with god-like powers who are essentially parodies of classic mythology, but not in the Weird Al tradition. And Wonder Woman is expected to manage this chaos while fighting the injustices of a patriarchal world. The demands on her couldn’t be more unreasonable without asking her to coach the Oakland Raiders.

Yet for all her power and responsibilities, Wonder Woman is largely powerless to help Donna Troy in this story. While Wonder Woman spends most of her time just looking for her, Donna’s story is an ongoing tragedy. However, that’s still an upgrade over being the catalyst for an outright war crime. What makes that tragedy compelling is that she understands the scope and scale of her crimes. She doesn’t try to hide from it. She doesn’t try to justify it. She actually tries to deal with it, which is more than most war criminals ever try to do. And none of these criminals can claim they were being controlled by black magic, except for maybe Kim Jong Ill.

It’s here where we’re also reminded that in addition to being guilty of an atrocity, Donna Troy is still a child. She’s basically an infant in a teenage girl’s body. She has no life experiences, let alone emotional maturity. A teenage mind is barely equipped to cope with calculus exams. This girl has to cope with being guilty of a war crime. It might be the first time a teenage girl’s melodramatic lamentation is completely warranted.

And being so emotionally immature, Donna’s first inclination is to seek an immature solution. She tries to end her life. Being an Amazon, she can’t exactly use Kurt Cobain’s approach. So she seeks out the mythological Sisters of Fate. However, they claim they can’t give her what she wants and not because suicidal teenagers have a tendency to not think things through. Despite being god-like beings, they can’t end her life because her fate isn’t set.

In some respects, it’s an appropriate metaphor for any teenager not guilty of war crimes. They may think that their life will always be defined by one bad day at high school, one day at work, or one bad relationship. That’s not how life works. The universe’s attention span isn’t as big as we make it out to be, especially for those whose experiences are so limited. And for Donna, her experiences couldn’t possibly be more limited without having been born in the lower decks of the Titanic.

Her frustration and self-hatred is the greatest strength of this story. It helps make her character endearing, notwithstanding the war crimes she’s still quite guilty of. The problem is her story is somewhat truncated. Another critical part of this story involves Wonder Woman searching for Donna. This leads to a few ambiguous twists involving someone attacking the Sisters of Fate and a surprise attack by Aegeus. It’s presented as a mystery, but ambiguity makes it come off as bland movie trailer.

Beyond the conflict, Wonder Woman doesn’t give the impression she has a plan for Donna. She doesn’t even indicate she can help her in any way other than bringing her back to Olympus, a place where gods torment mortals whenever they get bored. She still talks about helping Donna forgive herself and accept the weight of her crimes. That’s all well and good from a Dr. Phil perspective, but it’s insufficient for a character whose only life experiences involve being a pawn to war atrocities.

There is still some intrigue to this mystery, but its lacking in substance. It makes the overall narrative in Wonder Woman #43 uneven. It’s worth following to see the story of Donna Troy evolve beyond the grim circumstances of her creation. Beyond that, it’s mostly a generic conflict among gods with too much power, too much free time, and no Netflix.

There is still hope for Donna Troy as a character. Her journey is one that has the potential to be something unique and intriguing. She just has to find out how to circumvent self-hatred and meddling gods. If she can do that, she can be an inspiration for melodramatic teenagers everywhere. And in this day and age, there can never be too many of those.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Friday, August 21, 2015

X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 5: James Proudstar is LIVE!

Throughout the history of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, I’ve tried to create opportunities for certain characters to shine. Major characters like Cyclops, Wolverine, and Storm will always have those opportunities. That’s why I’ve tried to go out of my way to give similar opportunities to characters like Thunderbird, Sage, and Polaris. Now, I’m giving that opportunity to James “Warpath” Proudstar. He’s not going to get that opportunity in the current X-men comics. He will get this opportunity in X-men Supreme.

Warpath has been a part of X-men Supreme for quite some time now. I introduced him as the muscle behind Emma Frost’s road to redemption after the events of the Phoenix Saga. I have hinted at his history on some occasions. The only time I’ve really touched on it is X-men Supreme Issue 104: School Daze where I reveal he has a less than stellar record with the X-men and mutants as a whole. He’s someone who has made his share of mistakes in life. For a time, he was an adversary of the X-men and some haven’t forgotten about that. But like Wolverine and Emma Frost, he’s getting an opportunity for redemption, albeit due to tragedy.

The events of the Dark Legacy arc have shaken Warpath’s world in a way few things can. In this battle, for which he played a pivotal role, his brother, Thunderbird, died. In the aftermath, he freely admits that Thunderbird was the better warrior. He did the right thing when he had the opportunity. He joined the X-men, trained them to become the heroes they became, and gave his life to save a world that was at Sinister’s mercy. This leaves Warpath in a vulnerable and uncertain position.

I have major plans for Warpath in X-men Supreme Volume 6. But before any of those plans can unfold, it’s important to dig a little deeper into who Warpath is in the context of X-men Supreme. His journey to this pivotal point in his life where he’s coping with Thunderbird’s death was not an easy one. By knowing that journey, I believe everyone will appreciate the story that unfolds in the next phase of X-men Supreme. That’s exactly what I hope to accomplish with the latest entry of X-men Supreme Reflections.

X-men Supreme Reflections: James Proudstar

There are still plenty of opportunities for plenty of characters in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Given the breadth of the X-men mythos, it’s impossible to cover every one of them. However, I’ll still make the effort. That I can promise. With every character that plays a part in X-men Supreme, I’m determined to do them justice. I know there’s a lot of love and passion for the X-men. I want to make sure that every character I explore, including Warpath, respects those feelings. To do that, it’s very important that I get feedback for this and the rest of the X-men Supreme mythos. Either contact me directly or post your feedback directly in the issue. Either way is fine. I’m always happy to chat and listen to constructive criticism. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Inferno #4

There was once a time when demons and the women who fucked them were an actual, legitimate concern. These were not fun times to say the least. Without internet porn or TV, people would deal with these concerns by burning people at the stake and conducting exorcisms that would make any reasonable person prefer the company of demons. Since then, demons have become cartoon characters, except for the Duck Dynasty crowd. And stories like Inferno have shown that, despite all the horror and carnage they bring, they can still be pretty damn awesome.

Inferno has nicely established itself as one of the better tie-ins for Secret Wars. How can it not when it involves a kid version of Cable, a crazy demon psycho bitch in Magik, and Madelyne Pryor in a thong? It adds to that awesome by crafting a genuinely compelling story about Colossus trying to save his sister from Limbo. There's been plenty of drama to go along with epic demon battles. He's even found time to hook up with Domino on the side. Swap the vodka out for whiskey and he'd be on Wolverine's level. But in Inferno #4, he's gotten to a point where all the vodka and whiskey in the world won't convince him that he can save Magik. She's dry-humped one too many demons. It's time he get medieval on this demon shit.

That's exactly what Colossus reflects on, albeit in a more brotherly sort of way. He and Domino are still working with Madelyne fucking Pryor of all people in their effort to find her. It's not as unreasonable as it sounds because by the time they reach Limbo, Magik has effectively unleashed a demonic version of PMS on everyone and everything. With a new demon Nightcrawler pet by her side, she's casually strolling the streets while her demon hordes torment and horrify everyone in their sight. There's being a sadistic brat and then there's being a crazy demon psycho bitch. And at this point, I think it's safe to say that Magik has embraced and gangbanged both. Evil demons are bad enough. Evil demons who are also sadistic teenage girls? Even my penis shudders at that thought.

As she rampages with a smile like a kid on their first trip to Disney World, she still encounters some resistance. Although at this point, calling Longshot resistance is like calling Bobby Jindal a legitimate contender for President. It's not going to do anything but annoy Magik, albeit less than a speech by Bobby Jindal. And annoying crazy demon psychic bitches is a bad idea, no matter how much luck you have on your side. He should stick to playing Powerball.

But Longshot doesn't end up getting to do jack shit. Before he can do anything more than mildly amuse Magik, Dr. Strange and Doom's Thor Corp show up. This is somewhat jarring, but it's also a nice reminder that this story is taking place within Battleworld. That means when a big fucking demon army invades a part of it, a god-powered Dr. Doom is going to take notice. It may mildly annoy him just as much, but it's still the first instance where this story is injected into the larger context of Secret Wars.

While this is an intriguing twist, it still feels somewhat forced. I have to wonder how a god-powered Doom reasons that, "I'll give only half a shit about any particular realm in Battleworld. But when demon armies start invading, I'll take an interest." But whatever his reasons, it's still one of those moments that offer tantalizing possibilities. Like a stripper in the process of taking off her bra, there's a distinct promise that something awesome is about to be revealed.

For the rest of the X-men who spent years protecting this realm from demon attacks, it's not quite as awesome. The epic battle in the previous issue ended up being pretty lopsided. The X-men and all the mutant forces that Cyclops led, despite being confined to a wheelchair, got their asses kicked by a demon-loving teenager. That has to be right up there with getting farted on by Blob as a low point. Their pride, their spirit, and their collective balls are pretty damn wounded.

It leads to a vulnerable moment with Cyclops. Everyone around him, including Jean, keep telling him just how fucked they are. At this point, they would have better luck in the Zombieverse or Age of Ultron. But Cyclops, being stubborn/badass leader he's always been, tries to rally the X-men with a stirring Mel Gibson speech. And he does it without going into an anti-semetic rant. I admit even I felt the urge to go out and fight demons or my 5th grade teacher, which is basically the same thing. It's the kind of Cyclops that X-men fans have come to love and Wolverine fans have come to despise.

But before anyone can start cheering and mooning demons, Magik's forces and a demon Nightcrawler show up. So much for an inspiring speech. Still a better outcome than Mel Gibson's last speech though.

Everybody seems to be running on empty. Fighting a crazy demon psycho bitch who is on a hell of a winning streak is taking a toll. Colossus, Domino, and the Goblin Queen's forces/bitches are still trying to meet up with the X-men or kick Magik's ass, whichever comes first. Along the way, they keep losing more of their forces. They're basically trying to fight Ronda Rhousy while bleeding to death. Colossus seems to know this and continues to look pretty damn pessimistic about saving his sister and/or ending her demonic ass. The only one who doesn't seem all that broken up about it is the Goblin Queen. She still looks like she's enjoying this. That or she's horny. I honestly can't tell and neither can my penis.

They finally get a break, albeit a small one. A few issues ago, Nightcrawler and Boom Boom managed to dive head-first into the losing end of a demon battle. Nightcrawler got turned into one of Magik's pets. Boom Boom just ended up like most pretty blondes in a slasher movie. Or did she? Well, this isn't another shitty Friday the 13th sequel so remarkably, she survived. Her hair looks like shit, but she's in one piece.

This may also sound forced, but it's not. And that's not just because of the weed. However she survived, she offers Colossus, Domino, and the Goblin Queen a better way to get to the demon-fighting action. Sure, it involves going through a sewer, but they just went through fucking Limbo. By comparison, a sewer has to be a cruise to the Bahamas. Since they're so fucked right now, they follow Boom Boom willingly. It seriously can't be worse than just wandering around the wasteland that Magik's demonic hissy fit has created.

Thanks to Boom Boom and the overly elaborate sewers that might as well be shit-powered magic gateways, Colossus and his team are able to meet up with the others. The details are somewhat lacking, but it's not a big deal because it leads to another X-men vs. Demons battle. There are just some things you can't be petty about.

The fight that unfolds isn't quite as epic as previous battles, nor is it intended to be. It's basically a way for Colossus, Domino, and the Goblin Queen's forces to meet up with Cyclops, Jean, and the rest of the beleaguered X-men. Is it enough to tip the balance in their favor? Probably not. But it does lead to a scene where Madelyne Pryor and Jean Grey are within slapping distance of one another. That alone makes it worthwhile.

Now this could and probably should've been a big moment. In the history of Inferno, the conflict between Jean Grey and Madelyne Pryor is one of the most emotionally charged clashes in the story and not just because guys like me jerk off to the thought of two sexy redheads fighting. Madelyne Pryor is still Jean Grey's clone and I imagine she's still somewhat pissed that Jean had the audacity to come back to life and take Cyclops from her. But none of that shit comes up. Instead, Madelyne just finds it satisfying to pwn Jean by subduing the demon Nightcrawler and making her look like a total pussy. I admit it's not the kind of emotionally charged clash I had been hoping for, but I can't deny that Madelyne knows how to pwn her rivals.

We don't get much from the Jean/Madelyne conflict, which is somewhat disappointing. But we still get plenty of demon fighting, which is pretty damn awesome. It's not as epic as previous battles, but it's still plenty visceral. It's not a case of whiskey, but it's a couple bottles and that's enough to have a good time.

And while we were denied more Jean/Madelyne conflict, we get more than our share of Cyclops/Colossus conflict. Granted, it's not nearly as sexy, but it's every bit as emotionally charged. Once they get a breather from fighting demons, Cyclops goes out of his way to blast and yell at Colossus for basically doing the exact opposite of what he told him to do. If that weren't bad enough, Cyclops ended up being right in the end and this time it didn't get his ass thrown in jail. He rightly points out that Colossus' endless efforts to save his sister were doing more harm than good. Now, they're all pretty much fucked. He's harsh, way more than he ever was with Wolverine. But Colossus doesn't argue with him. He never denies that he fucked up. Even so, it doesn't do much of anything to unfuck their situation.

It's a powerful moment and one that could get a lot messier and a lot less sexy if it continues. But just like before, it's a moment that gets cock-blocked. But this time, it isn't from Dr. Doom's people. This time, it's from their old friend/asshole Sinister. He showed up at the end of the previous issue. Now, he's arriving just in time exploit the X-men's desperation and vulnerability. He's like a corrupt lawyer, but not quite as ugly.

His appearance definitely surprises everybody. It's the first time Madelyne looks genuinely shocked and definitively not horny. Then Boom Boom vouches for him. It's at this point we find out how she actually survived. It's Sinister who saved her. He claims he also tinkered with her genetics to make her more subservient, but that's pretty much the basic package for this guy. That's one question answered, but the X-men are still suspicious of him, as they probably should be given how many crazy clones this guy has unleashed.

However, he claims he's there to help them. He claims he has a way for them to beat Magik. And Dr. Oz claims I can run a marathon in under two hours just by buying my vitamins from him. It's not a very credible claim. Unfortunately, the X-men aren't in a position to turn down help, especially now that Magik has the attention of Dr. Doom and his unholy henchmen. At the very least, Sinister isn't asking for their credit card number or a copy of their passport. It's hard to imagine how he can help them turn the tide against Magik. But given his reputation for fucking shit up, often with clones, why not take a chance? If it's a choice between Sinister and a teenage demon-loving psycho bitch, I think the choice is obvious.

After reading this issue, I feel like I need an exorcism, but in a good way. Once again, this series finds a way to make demons and the psycho bitches who love them fun. It also finds a way to inject a premium level of X-men caliber drama along the way. Like Red Bull and Vodka, the idea that X-men and demons would come together to make an awesome mix sounds crazy. But even if it is crazy, it's the kind of mixture that gets you fucked up in all the right ways and doesn't turn your vomit green. On behalf of my toilet, I thank Dennis Hopeless for making this work.

The heavy drama with Colossus and the inclusion of Sinister helps raise the stakes of this story. And with Doom's unholy army showing up, this series now feels like it's more than just a random brain fart from Battleworld. It has the potential to affect the larger landscape of Secret Wars. Overall, this issue and this series does everything it needs to do. It does drag a bit in some places, but it never kills your boner. And those who jerk off to demons and X-men drama will definitely need new underwear after this. Inferno #4 gets an 8 out of 10. More than anything else, we now know how dangerous crazy psycho demon bitches are. They're so crazy that they make Sinister an ally of the X-men. Let that sink in for the next several weeks. Nuff said!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Star Wars #8

With the kids going back to school soon, I imagine everyone is having nightmares about their least favorite classes. I’m sure even healthy adults still endure horrible cold sweats when remembering calculus exams. For Star Wars fans, there are certain parts of the prequels that induce the equivalent of 10 calculus exams. Mediglorians, Gungans, and Hayden Christiansen come to mind. Granted, the inclusion of Yoda, Natalie Portman, and pod racing more than made up for it, but it’s still one of those darker eras in an otherwise iconic mythos. And since Marvel’s new Star Wars series is exploring stories in ways that don’t require bringing Peter Mayhew out of retirement, it’s only a matter of time before some of those stories are revisited.

The previous issue proved that revisiting these eras can be pretty damn awesome. It can actually remind us that Obi Wan Kanobi was once more than just Anakin’s shitty babysitter. Now, Luke, Leia, and Han have other pressing conflicts that may or may not require them to visit these dark areas that many Star Wars fans wish they could forget with the Jedi Mind Trick. Star Wars #8 acts as the bridge that will expand these conflicts. One involves learning more about the history of the Jedi. Another involves Han Solo’s ex-wife. Honestly, I think Han Solo would prefer a prostate exam by a Sarlac, but it’s still way more interesting than another Gungan War.

If Star Wars had Jerry Springer, this would be a classic episode that would rank right up there with midget strippers. Han and Leia were already on a mission to a planet in the Outer Rim that looks like a set for an Elton John concert. Then, before Han can do anything to make Leia loosen the lock she has on her panties, his “wife” shows up. I put “wife” in quotes because if I had a spider-sense that responded only to crazy psycho bitches, it would be going haywire right now.

Her name is Sana. She has an ass that’s basically on the same level as Leia, but she carries herself like the kind of woman who keeps a jar of men’s testicles under her mattress. Han, clearly looking around for Jerry Springer, is probably wishing he kept his balls in a carbonite safe. She hints that this planet was the site of an epic, sci-fi honeymoon that could’ve easily spawned three more Hangover movies. But still, even my penis is wary about this woman.

The awkwardness and tension here is just too entertaining. Like every Jerry Springer fight that involves strippers and midgets, it’s impossible not to laugh. First, Sana kisses Han. Then, she slaps him. I’m not sure if that’s love or foreplay. It might be a mix of both for her. Leia is understandably confused and more than a little pissed. I imagine she’s adding extra locks to her panties at this point.

When Han finally manages to get a word or two in, he claims this woman is not his wife. She’s only his wife in the same sense that N’Sync fans claimed to be Justin Timberlake’s wife. It’s a strange, but intriguing situation. That or Han just had a really shitty divorce lawyer. And while Leia is plenty inclined to put a few light years of distance between herself and Han, Sana reveals something else about herself aside from being Mrs. Solo. She’s a bounty hunter and as it just so happens, the Empire still has a big fucking price on her head. So she gets a chance to screw over her husband and make a lot of money. For crazy psycho bitches, that’s like Christmas and a birthday all rolled into one.

The tension here keeps escalating and so does the yelling. Even Jerry Springer would stop them at this point. Sana continues making some pretty bold claims that would make Leia rip off his dick and throw it into the nearest black hole. Sana claims that Han likes to run con jobs where he seduces rich princesses and cons them out of rewards. Leia, having seen how much Han loves money, isn’t too inclined to reject this. It’s one of those arguments that makes sense, even if it is coming from a crazy psycho bitch. It’s why Ann Colter is a best-selling author.

Han, to his credit, tries to explain himself. I doubt Leia will respond in any way that doesn’t involve a kick in the balls. But Sana saves her the trouble by revealing that she could give two squats from a Sarlac’s ass about any con Han is running. She’s not just there to make Han wish he were being devoured by a Sarlac. She’s there because she intends to deliver Leia to the Imperials. In fact, she’s already got a deal in the works and she blows up their transport ship for good measure. Why? I’m guessing this might also count as foreplay for her, but she just might be that big a bitch.

There’s a lot of entertainment value to watching Han, Leia, and Mrs. Han Solo fight and argue. But there’s another plot unfolding in another part of the galaxy. It’s not nearly as entertaining as a galactic version of a hillbilly feud, but it still follows an ongoing story that has been unfolding for a few issues.

Luke, having retrieved Obi Wan’s dairy from Tattooine, is on a new mission now. He didn’t get what he wanted from that dairy other than proof that Obi Wan wasn’t always just a strange old man who occasionally talked like he was on LSD. But he’s still determined to learn more about the Jedi. To do that, he’s going to travel to Nar Shaddaa. What is Nar Shaddaa? Picture the worst parts of Somilia, Afghanistan, and downtown Detroit. Then, turn that into a planet. That’s Nar Shaddaa.

Why does Luke want to go here? Well, he’s searching for more information about the Jedi. Since the Empire gave the Jedi the Tony Soprano treatment, they can’t exactly live in the civilized parts of the galaxy. So that means traveling to the underground butthole of the galaxy. It’s a fucked up kind of logic, but it’s still logical none-the-less.

Following this logic, Luke makes his way into the seediest bar he can find that doesn’t involve alien crackheads. But just like we saw in A New Hope, Luke sucks Wookie dick when it comes to dealing with seedy bars. He could barely handle himself at Mos Eisley without Obi Wan as his wing man. So it’s laughably predictable when he starts getting his ass kicked. They don’t even have the courtesy to let him get drunk. It’s pretty pathetic, but it shows just how inexperienced Luke is at this point. He’s nowhere near the kind of Jedi who can go up against Darth Vader. That said, it’s still as entertaining as any bar fight can be without strippers.

Then, at one point in the battle, Luke breaks out his light sabre. This forces everyone in the bar to sober up much faster than they probably would’ve preferred. They’ll happily beat the shit out of anyone who stumbles into their bar looking like they just got off the bus from Montana. But if he breaks out a light sabre, then that’s cause for concern, even among these assholes.

Once sober, the bartender gives Luke at least some of the information he’s looking for. He says that if he wants to learn more about the Jedi, he needs to go to the temple on Coruscant. I’ll give those who hated The Phantom Menace a moment to cringe. The bartender even offers to smuggle him there since the Imperial still have a standing kill-every-Jedi-and-piss-on-their-corpses order. The problem is, he wants the light sabre as payment. Luke understandably refuses and just like that, these assholes are back to kicking his ass.

But before another galactic bar fight can break out, some mysterious guy/girl/alien of ambiguous gender enters the picture. Like a mystery guest in a bad spy movie, this cloaked figure kicks any lingering bit of sobriety in the balls by stealing Luke’s lightsabre. This mystery figure even seems to use the Force or something similar. Does that mean there are more Jedi that survived the order? More that could warrant shitty prequels? We can only speculate because the details are lacking. All we know is that someone is interested in Luke’s pursuit of all things Jedi and if they’re not trying to kill him, they might be worth talking to. The lack of details are a bit troubling, but it still makes for an awesome bar fight and I’m okay with any fight that doesn’t involve me getting my eye-socket punched in.

Bar fights are fun and all, but I imagine most are more interested in learning about Han’s psycho-bitch/wife. She still has Leia and Han at gunpoint and she’s negotiating with a Star Destroyer in orbit, hoping to collect on that big ass bounty. Leia is still understandably pissed and Han is doing his best to salvage what’s left of his balls. At first, he attempts to try sweet-talking Sana. It’s not an unreasonable approach. Hell, he got her to marry him. He must know something about loosening a woman’s panties, even if that woman is a crazy psycho bitch.

However, Leia isn’t willing to place that much faith in Han’s panty-loosening skills. She opts to just kick Han in the ass, pull out a blaster she had hidden in her boot, and hold them at gunpoint. Whereas most princesses would resort to whining to her daddy or calling on her knights, she sticks to blasters. Now that Star Wars is owned by Disney, she’s making it clear she’s not like those other whiney princesses. I can’t help but respect that and be turned on by it.

Leia doesn’t just point that blaster at Sana either. She lets Han know that she’s done putting locks on her panties. Now, she’s more inclined to shoot him rather than deal with any more of his bullshit. There may or may not be a reasonable explanation, but she’s not taking any chances. The problem is Sana didn’t leave much room to negotiate in her deal with the Empire. They’re already on their way and regardless of the bounty, they still want her head. She can be as pissed as she wants at Han. It’s still not going to protect her from the Empire. Sana made sure of that because she’s just that big a bitch. If she admitted at this point she pleasured herself when she found out Alderan had been destroyed, I wouldn’t be shocked.

At this point, I think two things are clear. One, Luke Skywalker sucks at dealing with smugglers and criminals. Second, Han Solo is the unluckiest son-of-a-bitch in the galaxy right now. Usually, when a series diverts into two unrelated stories, it tends to fuck up the narrative. It’s like having a sandwich that’s half bacon and half kale. One part may be awesome, but the other part keeps that sandwich from being a complete kind of awesome. However, on rare occasions, both stories turn out to be awesome. In that case, it becomes a sandwich that’s half bacon and half chocolate. Both are inherently awesome on their own. Put them together and they’re extra awesome.

I can’t say both stories are on an equal level. As much as I loved watching Han Solo’s balls retreat into his rectum, not a whole lot happened with him, Sana, and Leia until the end. The tension was great, but it took a while to make something of it. For those of us who read comics stoned, that counts for something. The plot with Luke was much more concise. It captures that naïve innocence that made Luke so lovable in A New Hope and so jaded in Return of the Jedi. There’s a lot to like about both stories, even if they lack that special ball-busting impact. They both have all the elements that make Star Wars so awesome and so absurdly profitable for George Lucas. I give Star Wars #8 an 7 out of 10. If at this point someone told Han that he’s going to get frozen in carbonite, I’d think he’d prefer the carbonite. Hell, most men in his position would dive in head first and give the ex-wife the finger just for good measure. Nuff said!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Harder Core Justice: Justice League Gods and Monsters #1

The following is my review of Justice League Gods and Monsters #1, which was posted on

Like a bogus parking ticket or botched drug bust, the concept of justice is often a victim of circumstance. Superheroes make it look so easy. The circumstances are so clear cut. They don't need an overpriced lawyer or an under-qualified judge to determine that Lex Luthor, Darkseid, and the Joker are bad guys. Even Johnny Cochran would admit there's no ambiguity there. It's comforting and easy to see justice in this context, largely because we never see it in the real world outside of cases that involve a traffic violation by Lindsey Lohan.

That's what makes the world of Justice League: Gods and Monsters #1 so jarring to an audience that's used to seeing Superman rescue kittens from trees. The justice in this world feels more ambiguous. The lines of truth are obscure and the personalities of its heroes are anything but idealistic. This is far from the world we wished we lived in as kids watching Saturday morning cartoons. So it's somewhat ironic that this incredibly flawed world comes from the mind of Bruce Timm, who created some of those memorable cartoons.

It's a world where Batman kills, Superman is an arrogant jerk, and Wonder Woman a hornier version of Rhonda Rousey. But these characters are not like the Crime Syndicate or even the Justice Lords. They're still heroes. They're just not the kind of heroes that belong on lunch boxes and backpacks. Each character had their own mini-series to establish them as individuals. The purpose of Justice League: Gods and Monsters #1 is to show how they became a team. And in this world, it's safe to assume they didn't come together after a rousing speech from Mel Gibson.

The story itself isn't told from the perspective of any of the three characters. It's told through Lois Lane. In this world, she's not a love interest or a moving target for feminists who are tired of seeing her rescued every other day. She's more Rachel Maddow than she is Lois Lane at times, but she provides an important perspective that gives the story just the right tone. She is, by far, the harshest critic of these three characters. She makes it clear that she doesn't like them as individuals or as a team. However, she makes it clear that she is a big believer in justice, which sets her apart from half the commentators on Fox News.

The story Lois tells describes a group of heroes that aren't trying to be heroes in the traditional sense. If the Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman of this world, they're going to do it their way. And if anyone has a problem with that, then that's their problem. They're not at each others' throats when they start to interact, but they're anything but Superfriends. Superman and Wonder Woman are just as likely to fight one another as they are to sleep with one another. It's a strange dynamic that usually isn't found outside of a Judd Apatow movie, but it works in this story.

By establishing that these versions of the Justice League are arrogant, selfish, and violent early on, it's not entirely clear who the villains are here. That's the biggest strength of the story because there is another story unfolding alongside that of the nascent Justice League. It's a story that involves another nuance version of a familiar DC team, namely the Forever People. Like the Justice League, their history and purpose is different in this world. And the extent to which they're allies or enemies is a mystery. However, it involves an enigmatic billionaire recluse who isn't named Bruce Wayne so it's easy to make assumptions.

The Forever People in this world are the brainchild of Jackson Alpert, who is basically a much more sinister version of Steve Jobs and Stephen Hawkings. He claims to have a way to turn any human being into a god. He claims anyone can have the body of a Photoshopped supermodel and the durability of Brett Favre and Nolan Ryan. The only catch is that it's reserved for the super rich. It basically means that only the Warren Buffets and Donald Trumps of the world can achieve this kind of power. Naturally, it doesn't sit well with a lot of people, including the Justice League.

From here, the mystery unfolds. And because of the inherent ambiguity of this world, it's really hard to tell just how sincere Jackson Alpert is. There's almost a sense among the Justice League that they want him to be sincere. They want him to mean everything he says. They want it the same way most people want their drug dealers to be honest with them. It creates this tension, especially among Superman and Wonder Woman, that eventually comes back to haunt both of them.

Eventually, Jackson Alpert does reveal he's more Lex Luthor than Reed Richards. And thanks to some detective work from Batman, the ambiguity fades to a point where we now know who the clear villain is in this world where there are no clear heroes. In addition, it becomes very apparent at this point in the story that this isn't a villain that Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman can defeat on their own. If they want to save the world and their own selfish butts, they have to work together.

By the end, the bigger picture in Justice League: Gods and Monsters #1 is clear. These versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are still arrogant jerks, but they're arrogant jerks that have a vested interest in keeping the world intact. They don't seek to work together. They don't even like the idea of working together. But it's something they end up doing to face a threat that's bigger than any of them. It's not the most noble set of circumstances under which the Justice League is formed, but it captures all the right themes.

There are still points where the plot drags a bit, but it never feels choppy or boring. We get only a minor glimpse into this world of Justice League: Gods and Monsters, but in this glimpse, we see a world that has plenty to offer. For those who are tired of a world where Superman tells kids to eat their vegetables, this world will definitely appeal.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Strangers In Paradise Chapter 17: Allied Hearts is LIVE!

There comes a point in every conflict where the forces of karma have a way of balancing out a massive clusterfuck that has become too lopsided. It doesn't always happen at once. Sometimes the process of biting someone else in the ass takes time and patience. The Vietnam War is proof enough of that. But when the enemy is Ares, the God of War, and a Lex Luthor, who might as well be the God of Ego and Baldness, there isn't much room for patience.

This is part of the challenge in writing a Superman/Wonder Woman story. These two characters are among the most powerful characters in the history of comics. Superman has moved planets, destroyed solar systems by sneezing, and made a sex tape with Big Barda (see Action Comics #592 and #593). Wonder Woman has battled entire armies, slain gods, and held the title of both Queen and Goddess. Even Disney would say she's pushing it. So when these two forge a relationship, who or what could possibly be strong enough to stand against them? It's a challenge, but it's one worth taking on.

At this point in my story, Superman and Wonder Woman have walked right into the trap laid by Ares and Lex Luthor. They entered the domain of the gods and they got beat. It wasn't because they were too weak either. Ares, Lex Luthor, and Apollo outsmarted and outwitted them. They put them in situations where they couldn't just fight their way out. It's the perfect tactic and one that even the strongest can't avoid. Now Superman is Ares' prisoner and Wonder Woman is in an unwinnable battle against Lex Luthor and her corrupted sisters.

However, all that cunning and treachery comes at a price. Eventually, even the gods and Lex Luthors of the world will piss off enough people that they can't avoid the backlash. And sometimes that backlash is more powerful than a romantically linked Superman and Wonder Woman. With the stakes getting higher and time running out, that backlash is set to begin. But will it be enough? That's what this latest chapter of "Strangers In Paradise" will start to reveal.

The conflict is escalating to its highest point and so are the emotions. This is a conflict that Superman and Wonder Woman cannot overcome with their might as individuals. This is something that they'll have to get through together. It's a true test of strength, trust, and love. And it's only going to get harder as time runs out. But they wouldn't be much of a Power Couple if they couldn't rise to the challenge. Nuff said!

Friday, August 14, 2015

X-men Supreme Reflections: James Proudstar PREVIEW!

Throughout the history of X-men, there have been characters that have had the potential to be awesome, but not the opportunity. Oftentimes, those characters are stuck in the shadows of others. It used to be that characters like Jubilee and X-23 were indelibly linked to Wolverine’s story. Over time, they managed to branch out and thrive on their own accord. X-23 has just started that process in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. In Marvel’s ongoing X-men comics, she’s taking it a step further by taking on Wolverine’s mantel. Characters like X-23 are proof that it is possible for one character to emerge from the shadow of another.

One character in particular has been stuck time and again, both in Marvel’s X-men comics and in X-men Supreme. Back in X-men Supreme Issue 31: Memory Musings, I established a place for Thunderbird in this fanfiction series. His story unfolded in new directions that he never got a chance to in the comics. He was the one who trained the X-men. He helped them become what they are. However, he was unable to do this for his younger brother, Warpath. Now, like it or not, Warpath must carry on Thunderbird’s legacy in X-men Supreme.

In the comics, Warpath is one of those characters who only occasionally shows up and never gets a chance to develop. He hasn’t had a lot of chances in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series either. He first showed up in X-men Supreme Issue 71: Election Day as a less-than-willing ally of Emma Frost. Since then, I’ve hinted at bits and pieces of his persona. He’s not quite as honorable or as dutiful as his older brother. He got into his share of trouble, which put him at odds with the X-men. They have good reasons not to trust him. I haven’t had time to explore those reasons. After the death of Thunderbird in X-men Supreme Issue 124: Dark Legacy Part 4, I think it’s important to reveal just who James Proudstar is.

As such, he will be the next focus of X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 5. With the death of his brother, Warpath’s life will never be the same. Even for those who have lost their way, the death of a loved one has a way of putting things back into perspective. This is what Warpath will have to deal with as X-men Supreme continues into Volume 6. However, the burdens of his past will still follow him. I’ll be revealing some of those burdens and explore how they affect him as this fanfiction series unfolds. As always, I’ve prepared a preview that should offer some insight into what we can expect from the world of James Proudstar.

Damn it, John. Why did you have to die? Why did you have to be the good brother who did the right thing while I made an ass of myself? We’ve both screwed up plenty in our time, but at least you always did the right thing. It didn’t matter if you messed up or failed. You could always go home with a clear conscious. That’s just how you were. That’s how you always were. Since I was three years older, I always felt ahead. You had to work harder to measure up. It made you a better man and it made me a total prick.

We were both born under some pretty rough circumstances. We grew up on the Apache reservation at Cape Verde, Arizona. It’s not a hot vacation spot to say the least. It’s a desolate patch of the American Southwest that our people call home. It’s a land of poor ranchers, poor farmers, and poor everything else. Native American reservations aren’t known for being cosmopolitan and that always wore heavily on our father.

In a ways our dad had the heaviest burden of all. He was a pretty important figure in the tribe. The Proudstar family can trace its linage back to a warrior class that used to fight for the Apache people. Our grandparents were warriors. Their grandparents were warriors. As a boy I heard all sorts of stories about my ancestor’s exploits. It was said that they could tap the strength of the Great Spirit in a way no other warrior could. I wonder now if that meant they were mutants as well. Whatever the case, we were expected to follow in their footsteps.

Fate wasn’t going to make it easy. Because of my father’s high standing in the tribe, he was expected to be an effective leader. Life wasn’t getting much better for our people and a big part of that was because the chiefs everyone had placed their trust in before had found a way to mess things up. They were unable to get any aid from the government. They botched a few land deals that could have really helped us. My father was the guy everyone turned to and he wasn’t equipped to handle it. I guess that was the first sign that luck wasn’t on our side.

John and I spent must most of our early childhood on a ranch, wrestling cattle and learning the warrior traditions of our people. It was a rough life, but it got rougher the more time my dad spent trying to live up to the tribe’s expectations. He wasn’t nearly as effective as everyone wanted. Our family had a tradition of warriors, not chiefs. He started drinking to deal with his frustration. It made him pretty mean. There were a few times he slapped us around. My mother got a taste of it as well. She was the only lucky one. She died when I was seven.

That was my first taste of death and it messed me up in ways I wouldn’t understand until now. My father took it as a personal failing. What happened is my mother had been pushing herself to run the ranch on her own with limited help from the neighbors. All this time out in the hot sun wasn’t good for her skin. She developed skin cancer and it went undiagnosed. One of the many problems we had at the reservation was lousy health care. My dad had been working to improve it, but he didn’t improve it fast enough. By the time my mom was diagnosed, it was too late.

Her death marked the first conflict between me and John. Him being younger, he was closer to her. He let himself mourn. I found it easier to just swallow my sorrow and move on. That’s not a healthy way to deal with death. I would call him a sissy. We were supposed to be warriors and warriors had to be strong in the face of death. To him, sorrow was a strength. I didn’t agree. From there, it all went downhill.

I know characters like Warpath don’t have the same following as Wolverine or Storm. However, I want as many characters as possible to shine in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. A big part of what makes the X-men great is its ability to help characters shine. It’s what allows characters like X-23, Jubilee, and Gambit to become the icons they are now. And I want to give as many characters as I can a chance to capture that spirit. As always, I strongly urge everybody to provide feedback so I can know that I’m sufficiently capturing that spirit. Either contact me directly or post your feedback right in each issue. Either way is fine and I’m always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Years of Future Past #4

Family drama has been the driving force of no less than 80 percent of successful sitcoms. From Father Knows Best to Modern Family, we just can’t get enough of family dramas. It helped Ed O’Neil star in not one, but two successful TV series. And it actually made Rosanne Barr funny for most of the 90s. But beyond shitty sitcoms, family dramas help add heart to otherwise shitty situations. And there aren’t many situations that are shittier than the world of Days of Future Past.

Let’s review the list. Mutant internment camps? Check. A horribly racist government that only the Aryan Brotherhood would approve of? Check. Killer robots hunting down a battered minority? Check. Bryan Singer making a shitty movie out of it? Double check. That’s the world that Dr. Doom recreated when he forged Battleworld during the events of Secret Wars. But the domain of Years of Future Past has set itself apart by focusing less on overly racist politics and more on the family dynamic of Kitty Pryde and Colossus. I guess even Marvel understands that people are burned out on racist politics at this point so I’m perfectly okay with this.

While these dynamics haven’t always been well-organized, they have helped make Years of Future Past one of the better Secret Wars tie-ins. It’s a series where the struggle against a Nazi-style government is secondary to the family struggles of the mutants trying to end it. Now, with the Rasputin family united in their efforts to overthrow their mutant hating government, they create a team of X-men that’s easy to root for. They’re like the Mighty Ducks meets Schindler’s List. It sounds pretty fucked up on paper, but it works, even with the use of giant dragons. Years of Future Past #4 continues that struggle, but after said giant dragon has failed. And if a racist government can’t be overthrown by dragons, then how can they be beat?

The racists in this world are way more cunning than just wearing goofy robes and making shitty websites. The assholes working under President Kelly’s racist hard-on have been trying to get video footage that they can doctor enough to make mutants scary as shit. They think they have just that after the shit storm the X-men kicked up in Centrum, which the last mutant haven. The fact that it was in a fucking sewer should tell you something. It’s still going to need some heavy Photoshopping, but I don’t doubt for a second that these assholes can make it look like a conspiracy. Just ask Planned Parenthood how effective that shit can be.

These racist assholes get away, but the rest of the X-men still get a nice reunion out of it. Wolverine and the others reunite with Storm, which is always good for a few feels. They even get Mystique to help out. In a world full of anti-mutant racists, she doesn’t have the luxury of being an asshole to the X-men nearly as much. On top of that, the X-men do have some semblance of a plan that involves more than just not getting killed by Sentinels.

A big part of that plan involved sending Christina and Cameron Pryde to the last mutant internment camp in hopes of rallying more support to fight President Kelly’s racist douche-baggery. It’s a perfectly reasonable tactic. The only problem is that she finds out that even racist assholes can turn their enemies against one another. That includes the old Brotherhood of Mutants, who somehow decided that working with the assholes who hate them is better than fighting an enemy with killer robots. Yes, it makes them traitors, but who can blame them for not wanting to fight enemies with killer robots?

For those who aren’t as inclined to sell out their own species, they rally around Christy and Cameron. They fight the racist soldiers and the Brotherhood who were dumb enough to help them. It’s not as epic as a giant dragon fighting a Sentinel, but it’s still pretty damn visceral. It’s more personal, complete with Kate Pryde coming in and lending a hand. Sure, it leads to Avalanche getting maimed like sexy cheerleaders in a slasher movie, but it nicely demonstrates a mother’s dedication to her daughter. It also shows that making deals with racist assholes tends not to end badly. It’s still satisfying as fuck, but it sucks to be the Brotherhood.

Despite the maiming and inspiration offered by the Pryde family, the mutants in this interment camp are still obscenely overmatched. They’re prisoners. They’re not John McClane. They can’t shoot down helicopters with cop cars. So after roughing up some of the guards, Destiny calls in some backup and now the mutants are staring down an army of racist soldiers who I doubt have any problems using mutants as target practice. And since all these mutants have power-suppressing collars on, it’s not like one of them has the ability to turn bullets into horse piss.

However, as much fun as seeing bullets turn into horse piss might be, it’s an ability they don’t need. The rest of the X-men show up just in time and they bring something that makes every racist redneck’s dick shrivel. Remember that Sentinel that had been the centerpiece at Centrum? Well, Magneto and the rest of the X-men decided it was a shitty centerpiece to begin with. Now, it’s racist-crushing killer robot that saves mutant prisoners. No matter how racist these guys might be, they’re not racist enough to fight through a killer robot piloted by Magneto. They run while the mutants escape, probably shitting themselves in the process. It’s a very satisfying moment, although I still think bullets turning to horse piss would’ve been just as satisfying.

The fight is over quickly, as it should be in this case. The guards leave, Nightcrawler leads the mutant prisoners to sanctuary, and the rest of the X-men meet up with Christina and Cameron. There’s a nice moment where they show their share of restlessness, having lost some mutants in the battle. But they’re not just channeling their inner Spartacus here. They still have a plan. They still need to stop the assassination attempt on President Kelly that his people are working so hard to pin on mutants. And that might not be a problem that giant dragons or killer robots can solve.

It’s a pretty basic concept and one that fits perfectly within the context of Days of Futures Past. If the rest of the story were spent having the X-men fight to save President Kelly and rub it in his face after, I don’t think anybody would be that disappointed, especially if they saw the shitty movie based on the story. However, that’s not the path this story takes. Instead, it throws a really fucked up twist into the mix that makes the concept of Days of Futures Past even more awesome. I know that sounds like I took one too many bong hits, but I swear it’s true.

It comes in the form of a very unpleasant revelation that Cameron uncovers when he takes a closer look at this Sentinel that the X-men hijacked. He finds out that Magneto tweaked the X-men’s plans, as he’s often inclined to do. Instead of just saving President Kelly from assassination, he’s set it up so that Christina dies saving him. And keep in mind, this is a girl who calls him her uncle and who he’s helped raise. Yet he’s willing to let her die so she can be a martyr for mutant-kind. While I do understand his strategy, it is still a dick move on a level that only Magneto can achieve. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that, even in an alternate universe, Magneto finds a way to be an asshole.

Naturally, Kate Pryde and the rest of the X-men aren’t a fan of this plan. Their first instinct is to martyr Magneto where he stands. But being Magneto, he neither goes down quietly nor does he apologize. In the process, there’s a very intense exchange with Christina. He still claims that he loves her as much as the rest of the X-men. However, it’s because she’s so loved and so pure of heart that she has to die. She’s the only one who is a worthy martyr. That’s like telling a pig it’s the only one worthy of becoming bacon. Sincere or not, Magneto still comes off as an omega level dick.

Christina is forced to run while Wolverine and Kate get left behind. Since Magneto is still the one with the killer robot on his side, she’s grossly overmatched. It could’ve been a quick and nasty fight, but just like before she gets a last-minute save. This time, it comes from the guy she just found out was her brother. Having been raised mostly by Wolverine, he’s more than willing to end Magneto where he stands. And since he doesn’t have adamantium bones, Magneto can’t do shit about it.

While Cameron taking down Magneto is pretty satisfying after the shit he just pulled, it ends up making for a very awkward reunion. Even though he tried to kill her, Magneto was still her uncle. So when Cameron channels his inner Wolverine, she’s not happy about it. This isn’t a matter of an annoying older brother hiding his sister’s tampons. This is him killing her uncle. It creates an intense, powerful moment that adds even more dramatic weight to this clash.

That dramatic weight gets even heavier when the conflict takes another twist. Usually when a comic takes this many twists, it’s trying way too fucking hard to rip off the Usual Suspects. It tends to get messy, chaotic, and confusing to a point where it’s hard to read sober. But that doesn’t happen here. Instead, Cameron does something that puts him at odds with way more than his sister.

As Christy is hulking out on him, he starts questioning whether the mutant race is worth saving. Now on the surface, this sounds like the kind of fatalistic shit that only Kurt Cobain would understand. However, he actually makes a valid point and he does it without the aid of heroin. He says that mutant conflicts have triggered wars and conflicts that have basically obliterated all the progress that civilization has made. And by fighting these conflicts, they’re screwing themselves and humans out of a future. The fucked up part is he’s not entirely wrong and even a sober mind would agree on some level. He thinks this dystopian world that mutants live in isn’t a struggle. It’s natural selection and they should stop fighting it.

Naturally, Christy disagrees and not in the immature brat way that most teenage girls disagree in. She starts lashing out at Cameron as though he replaced her shampoo with bull semen. She makes it clear that she doesn’t agree with his dour assumptions about human/mutant conflict. His solution? He’s going to be the one that kills President Kelly. I’ll give everyone a moment to catch their breath after that. I don’t think I need any more jokes or bong hits to describe the impact of this moment. I’ll just save myself the extra line of blow and let the moment speak for itself.

Even with the aid of my best weed, I can’t overstate the dramatic impact of this story. This series has taken a step beyond just pitting giant dragons against killer robots. It actually dared to do more than any Transformer movie ever dared. It threw in the kind of dramatic twist that’ll break hearts, bust balls, and blow minds. That’s the trifecta of awesome if ever there was one. I almost had to sober up to process it fully, but thankfully it wasn’t necessary. I can say while still high off my tits that this story has entered a new level of awesome.

This isn’t just a typical sibling clash like the one we’ve seen in every Married With Children rerun ever. Both siblings have endured very different experiences. Now, after being betrayed by someone they trusted, they don’t share the same vision for the future anymore. One thinks they’re doing more harm than good. One is willing to take a chance, even if it means confronting asshole racists. It heats up the emotions to levels that would cause a typical hot pocket to catch fire. This after another killer robot attack is just bacon-flavored icing on the cake.

Years of Future Past is doing way more than explore yet another dystopian future that would make George Orwell proud. There’s heart, drama, and betrayal thrown into the mix to help make it exceedingly awesome. I give Years of Future Past #4 a 9 out of 10. It’s inevitable. Siblings are going to one to kill each other at some point. But in an apocalyptic future on a world where Dr. Doom is god, it can lead to a lot more than awkward holidays. Nuff said!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Secret Wars #5

Every have one of those days where everything seems to be going great, but then it all starts turning to shit in a nanosecond? For me, most of those fateful nanoseconds involve running out of weed or having too much tequila. For Dr. Doom, he has a lot more to lose than his dignity or his liver function. Over the course of Secret Wars, he's established in a pretty convincing way that he's the god of Battleworld. He's basically to the Marvel universe what Rhonda Rousey is to MMA. He can't be beat. But unlike Rhonda Rousey, Dr. Doom's efforts to make himself a god have finally encountered a complications. And for once, it has nothing to do with the Scarlet Witch going batshit.

The secret portion of Secret Wars is out. Dr. Doom finally has a shit stain on that divine underwear of his. Some of the survivors of the Ultimate and 616 universe have returned and while they may not have Doom's godly power, they have Reed Richards. And if the history of the Marvel universe has shown us anything, it's that Dr. Doom starts to trip over his own ass the moment Reed Richards enters a conflict. It marks an important turning point for the events of Secret Wars. And Secret Wars #5 marks the beginning of the end of Dr. Doom's exceedingly unholy reign. He managed to create a world where the Age of Apocalypse and the X-men from the 1990s cartoon series can share the same world. But can he create a world where Reed Richards can't outsmart him? While I've been known to make shitty bets, as every blackjack dealer in Las Vegas can attest, even I'm not putting money on that shit.

That said, I'm more than willing to bet that Dr. Doom will twist and spin the situation to make himself more powerful. Moreover, he'll do it in ways that Fox News can only jerk off to. One of the most powerful moments in the last issue that didn't involve Reed Richards wanting to lobotomize himself was Dr. Doom killing his most trusted advisory, Dr. Strange. And wouldn't you know it? He turns it into spectacle on par with Ronald Reagan's funeral where the Thors and the Richards family (which Doom made his own) mourn his death.

There's no need to bet money on what the message is here. This is Doom being his usual manipulative self, giving his adherents the impression that some blaspheming assholes killed Dr. Strange. Every ayatollah and pope would agree that's a pretty good use PR. Having godly power sure helps. It beats the shit out of praying or paying lawyers. It also brings out some heavy emotions in the Richards family, who saw Stephen Strange as a non-creepy uncle. Now, they think someone other than Doom killed him. Even with godly power, Doom works smarter and not harder. How many gods not obsessed with impregnating mortal women can say that?

The ceremony for Dr. Strange ends and everyone prays to Doom for his soul in the most dramatically ironic way possible. Then, there's another more private moment between Dr. Doom and Valeria. Even though Doom is the one that gave Stephen Strange the Tupac treatment, Valeria believes she's responsible. She's the one that picked up on the presence of the 616/Ultimate survivors. She's the one that put Strange in the crossfire. It's a sad moment for her. But for the rest of us, the dramatic irony couldn't be more fitting without Morgan Freeman narrating it.

But what makes this moment more powerful is how it effectively puts Valeria on a course that will put her at odds with Dr. Doom. And keep in mind, she thinks he's her father in this world. She has no fucking clue that this is a guy who, in another life and another world, would eat a live puppy just to spite Reed Richards and his family. Yet Dr. Doom doesn't stop her from wanting to find these relics of this old world. He has to know on some levels that this is going to bite him in the holy ass, but he lets her do it. I don't know if it's arrogance or if even gods can't resist cute little blond girls, but I almost get the sense he's bored being a god and needs to do something to fuck things up if only for a while. I'm starting to reconsider that bet I mentioned on Doom's divine competence.

There are a lot of conflicts that can emerge from this and they're the kind that even divine power can't just brush off. This isn't another scandal in the Vatican. This is something that could completely fuck up the world as Doom has created it. I think I can speak for many Marvel fans when I say my penis is getting hard just contemplating those conflicts.

Unfortunately, neither fans nor my penis get what they want. Instead of exploring these conflicts, we get more of Dr. Doom's unholy brooding. Instead of finding out what happened to the survivors of 616 and Ultimate or the fate of Phoenix Cyclops, we see Doom paying a visit to an old friend that we stopped giving a shit about several issues ago. I apologize to Molecule Man fans in advance (all four of them), but who the fuck wants to catch up with this guy instead of seeing Reed formulate a plan to kick Doom's unholy ass?

While there are other plot lines I'd much rather read about, this isn't just the typical filler you usually find in a McDonald's quarter pounder. There is a point to this encounter and it's not just to show that Molecule Man is still an asshole, even when in the presence of a god-powered Dr. Doom.

In a nicely detailed and very revealing conversation, we learn a bit more about what happened in the moments leading up to the final incursion and Doom's ultimate ascension into godhood. It's one of those plot holes that you're too drunk to care about, but not drunk enough to forget about. Most are okay just to shrug it off. I admit, I wouldn't mind if those sorts of details were left up to my fucked up imagination. That way I could just assume Peter Parker made another shitty deal with Mephisto. However, Jonathan Hickman does take the time to explain the situation and for his willingness to accommodate a curious drunk, I thank him.

It turns out that Molecule Man wasn't just an overpowered asshole with a goofy name. He was actually the universal equivalent of an H-bomb. The Beyonders must have seen one too many Michael Bay movies and figured that if they're going to start blowing up universes, they're going to use bombs. And if they can make this bomb in the form of an asshole like Molecule Man, then that's a nice bonus. It's a much better bonus than we got from the last Transformers movie.

It's a crude, but effective plan that I'm sure the Beyonders thought would be good for a few laughs on a Saturday afternoon. However, the Molecule Man of 616 wasn't a big fan of being the harbinger of death for an entire multiverse so he decided to get help from Dr. Doom. Granted, that's like going to tobacco companies for help on researching lung cancer, but unlike Big Tobacco, Dr. Doom is actually competent and he's never been subpenaed by Congress. In that sense, he was the perfect ally.

With help from Molecule Man and his universe-destroying talents, Dr. Doom gets the firepower he needs to usurp the Beyonders. It's a perfectly fitting explanation for how someone who dedicates 95 percent of his time to bitching about Reed Richards was able to seize their power and create Battleworld. It still wasn't enough to save the world, but why save a world when you have the godly power to create your own? It's another sign that Doom knows how to work smarter and not harder, even with godly power.

Even though I would much rather learn more about the 616/Ultimate survivors, this brief interlude into how we got to this fucked up state of affairs is pretty satisfying. It adds a level of refinement to the overall story that most of us are too lazy and/or drunk to pursue. Beyond the refinement, Molecule Man sees what the even the non-sober readers have already seen. Dr. Doom's divine reign has gained a new complication and for once, his divine power isn't enough to just brush it aside.

If Molecule Man was in the same betting pool as me, he'd probably put his money on Doom fucking everything up at one point. And as bad as I am at gambling, I might actually do the same. I wouldn't bet the money I need for weed, but I would bet my next paycheck that he's fucked up more than he's ever going to admit.

We still don't get more insight into what happened to the 616/Ultimate survivors, but it's not like that plot has been completely dropped. I can't imagine anyone is drunk enough to forget that shit. But the foundation is laid for Dr. Doom's unholy fuck-up. With the blessings of her god/father, Valeria has assembled a science team of Battleworld's greatest minds. Their mission now is to hunt down the survivors and find out why they're making the god of Battleworld so anxious. It can't just be because of homosexuality, evolution, and internet porn this time. And since she's the smartest blonde in the universe not named Natalie Portman, she's going to find out and she'll likely pitch a cosmic hissy fit when she learns the truth. Fuck gambling. I'm just going to invest in beer and popcorn for this.

Valeria leads a conversation with her science team that drags somewhat, but only to the extent that it shows how they're going to do this. It's not like they can just place a craigslist ad in Battleworld. There's some technobabble talk about the energy Dr. Doom radiates when he imposes his godly will and the energy generated by the survivors of 616 and Ultimate. For those who went to physics class stoned, all you need to know is that the survivors have a unique signature. That signature is just the target on their asses that they'll have to aim at. It sounds so simple. Even inbred rednecks with too many guns and not enough teeth can understand it.

It's only at this point that we finally get a glimpse of some of the survivors. Granted, it's only a glimpse. Dr. Strange scattered them throughout Battleworld before Doom killed his ass, but he didn't exactly send them to parts of Battleworld where armies of naked She-Hulks and Emma Frosts roam the lands. Some, like Captain Marvel, already get themselves into some fucked up situations. Others, like Namor, are in a better position to annoy the shit out of Doom. It's still not as detailed or as epic as we would like, but it's a nice little teaser trailer of sorts. Despite my recent disappointment with trailers for the Fantastic Four movie, I'm going to take a chance and let myself get excited.

But the biggest takeaway from these teasers is that Valeria isn't just determined to find them. She's curious about who they are and what they're after. I imagine she's going to be somewhat disturbed that they want to give a blasphemous middle finger to Dr. Doom's godly power. But like many cute blondes who get more opportunities than most to fuck up, she's going to be curious. Again, she has no fucking clue that Dr. Doom warped reality to his own fucked up will. And with a very pissed off Reed Richards running around, I'm already looking forward to that hissy fit she's bound to throw.

This is a somewhat difficult issue to rate, even with the aid of good weed. Now the overly sober crowd who reads and over-reads comics might see this issue differently. But in the same way I don't agree with Mormons on their views about alcohol, I don't agree with any view that labels this issue as filler. This issue did actually take the time to fill in some lingering plot holes that have been around since the story began. More than anything else, this issue exposed the agenda of the Beyonders and how Dr. Doom subverted them. Since he's a fucking god now, that's a pretty important detail to highlight.

Beyond that though, this issue didn't do much more. I won't say it took a step back or anything, but at times it did feel out of place. This would've made a better prelude or tie-in than it would a mid-point. That said, it did lay the foundation for the conflict that's going to undermine Dr. Doom's reign as a god. Now, thanks to the 616 and Ultimate survivors, he's about to find out how the Vatican feels. His power and authority are about to be undermined. He's already lost Dr. Strange. Now he's about to lose Valeria. The hints here are pretty fucking unambiguous and so are the implications. In that sense, this issue does plenty to expand on the awesome that Secret Wars has established thus far. So I give Secret Wars #5 a 7 out of 10. But with only three issues left to take on a god-powered Dr. Doom, they're going to have to pick up the fucking pace. Because if Marvel fucks this story up, they can't blame it on Fox this time. And after the shit storm caused by the latest Fantastic Four movie, I imagine that everyone at Marvel is eager to give Fox the biggest middle finger possible. Nuff said!