Friday, May 27, 2016

Gods, Justice, Secrets, and Spectacles: Justice League #50

The following is my review of Justice League #50, which was posted on

Every major comic book event likes to claim it'll shake the foundations of this entire fanciful world to its core. Very few can claim they deliver on a consistent basis. Geoff Johns is one of the few who can make this claim, at least in the context of DC Comics. For the past decade, he has been the architect for many of the important upheavals in the DC Universe. He seems to bring a new upheaval every other year and Darkseid Wars is no exception.

This event is already shaking and shattering the foundations of the post-Flashpoint era of DC Comics. Darkseid is dead. Batman now sits on the Mobius chair. Lex Luthor now wields power, courtesy of the pits of Apokalipse and his unparalleled capacity for deceit. Wonder Woman now knows that Steve Trevor wasn't the first man to visit Themyscira. Johns is putting every character in a position to reassess the fundamental nature of who they are. Some handle it better than others and for once, it's not just Lex Luthor who lets his ego get in the way.

Justice League #50 is the culmination of all these factors on top of being the capstone to the New 52 era. It's a lot to assess, reassess, and reconfigure. Events that started back in the Forever Evil event come into play. On paper, it seems impossible, juggling so many plots and making every outcome feel meaningful. In addition, this all has to be done in conjunction with the world from an inter-dimensional entity that already has one dead universe to its credit and a dead Darkseid as a bonus.

It's the kind of massive threat that brings out the best and worst of the Justice League. In this case, Johns manages to highlight the best, minimize the worst, and complete the Darkseid Wars saga in a meaningful way. He once again proves himself a skilled juggler of all things DC Comics, but with Darkseid Wars, he sets himself apart from any street performer or circus act.

Darkseid Wars is an omega-level DC Comics spectacle and Justice League #50 acts as the finale when all the fireworks goes off, all the dazzling lights shine, and everybody's ears are left ringing in the best possible way. The Justice League doesn't just come together like the scrappy underdog in every sports movie ever made. They navigate a vast, intricate conflict that begins with Forever Evil and ends here.

Like the finale of any great spectacle, it gets pretty chaotic at times. Between Grail using Superwoman's baby to channel the power of the New Gods and the Anti-Life Equation taking a new form, it's like keeping up with the Flash after a dozen cups of coffee at times. However, Johns keeps things concise, using Wonder Woman as a narrator and an anchor for the plot. She provides the context for the emotional and dramatic breadth of the story and its a role she's uniquely adept at.

This context is built around Grail and her connection to Wonder Woman's homeland of Themyscira. The entire catalyst for Darkseid Wars begins and ends with the secrets and lies surrounding Themyscira, which have nothing to do with an illegitimate offspring of Zeus for once. Grail acts as the ultimate disruption to the order these secrets and lies protect, not at all caring that parts of this order kept forces like Darkseid in check.

This helps make Grail the biggest star of this story. For most Darkseid Wars, she carries herself like the antithesis of Wonder Woman. In Justice League #50, she finally demonstrates a level of depth that makes her worthy of being the star rookie of DC Comics' team of premier villains. What she does, how she does it, and how the Justice League opposes her bring out the potential that is undeniably present, but takes longer than expected to realize.

Grail and Wonder Woman help guide the narrative of Darkseid Wars to its conclusion. However, as strong as these characters and the surrounding spectacle are, there are times when it feels rushed. Johns avoids stumbling as he juggles so many plots and themes, but the story still gets ahead of itself, especially at the very climax of the battle. Jason Fabok's art skills seem wasted with how quickly the dust settles. There's a distinct lack of grit that keeps it from having the kind of visceral impact that separates great stories from iconic stories.

This rushed pacing extends to the aftermath and epilogues as well. There are significant implications from the events of Darkseid Wars, but these implications are mostly reduced to teasers. These teasers are tempting and appealing in their own right, but they raise far more questions than they answer and these questions are of the frustrating kind.

This is especially true with the teasers surrounding Batman and Wonder Woman. The revelations they uncover raise more than a few eyebrows, but the impact is muted. This impact can certainly be explored in other comics, but it does little to improve the impact of Justice League #50. There are other developments, like those surrounding Jessica Cruz, that offer a more meaningful and immediate impact. Like most teasers though, it's over too quickly.

The pace and polish in Justice League #50 keep Darkseid Wars from broaching that iconic status. It's still a story that hits all the right notes, evokes the right drama, and balances the right themes. It just doesn't fit together in a cohesive, comprehensive manner in the end. It's a flavorful desert of sorts, being the Justice League story that caps off the New 52 era. It's not completely filling, but it's still very satisfying and previews the menu for DC Comics' next big feast with Rebirth.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

X-men Supreme Issue #136: Stranger Things PREVIEW!

It’s a big day for X-men fans all over the world. Today, X-men: Apocalypse hits theaters. It’s billed as the biggest X-men movie to date. Yes, I know Fox says that about every X-men movie. Yes, I know not every X-men movie can keep raising the bar. But it’s still a big deal for the X-men as a franchise. This is the X-men fighting one of their most iconic villains on the big screen for the first time. I’m sure X-men fans everywhere have been waiting for something like this for years. I can’t quite measure up to a big Hollywood blockbuster with X-men Supreme, but I can do my part to supplement the excitement.

The X-men Supreme fanfiction series has not brought Apocalypse into the picture just yet. And unlike I was able to do with The Lotus and the Warrior, which came out just in time for The Wolverine movie, I am unable to make a similar story involving Apocalypse in time for the release. Some of that is just a matter of planning.

A character like Apocalypse, who can shake the world of X-men to its core, cannot be appropriately incorporated in just a quick arc. As it stands, X-men Supreme just wasn’t in a position to tell that kind of story. That’s not to say Apocalypse won’t show up at some point. If this fanfiction series continues beyond X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Apocalypse will rise. For now, the X-men have more pressing issues in this fanfiction series.

One of those issues might be familiar to those who saw X-men: Days of Future Past. Like in that movie, Professor Charles Xavier has developed a bit of a problem in X-men Supreme. It started at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths. Despite having beaten cancer, Xavier developed a crippling addiction to pain pills. That addiction was a ticking time bomb that went off badly in X-men Supreme Issue 127: Terror Sell. Because of his inability to function without his pain pills, his X-men suffered defeat at the hands of the Mutant Liberation Front. This sobering moment forced Charles Xavier to make a tough decision. For his health and his X-men, he stepped down from the Xavier Institute and left to treat his addiction, leaving the X-men to fend for themselves.

While the X-men did prove themselves capable of defeating the Mutant Liberation Front in the Natural Disorder arc, Charles Xavier is still not healed. He’s still struggling to cope with this crippling addiction that affect so many people in the real world. But now, a new threat is set to emerge and it’s one that isn’t going to wait for Xavier to heal. This threat has roots that began back in the Starcrossed arc in X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear. That arc brought the Shi’ar, Corsair, and the Starjammers into the mix. Now, they’re coming back at a time when Xavier is ill-prepared for such challenges.

Shortly before the release of X-men: Apocalypse, Fox’s producers said they wanted to utilize some of the more cosmic elements of the X-men universe. Well this time, I’m getting out ahead of the curve. The next major conflict in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series will have the X-men confront some very alien, very cosmic threats. Some of these threats are from more obscure parts of the X-men mythos, but their impact on this fanfiction series cannot be understated. I wish I could say more, but I think X-men fans are too busy seeing X-men: Apocalypse to concern themselves right now. At the very least, I can provide a preview about the type of cosmic elements you can expect in the next big conflict for X-men Supreme.

“You’re really pushing it, Corsair. Pissing D’ken off has never been a viable strategy,” said Lilandra, who was sitting in the seat behind him.

“You think I care how much I upset that asshole? Let him be pissed!” said Corsair sternly.

“Need I remind you he has the rest of your crew in custody? Aren’t you worried about him taking out his anger on them?”

“They knew what they were getting into. They hate D’ken as much as I do. Sorry if my manners aren’t of royal caliber, Miss Neramani. But I’m the guy who has to save your ass right now! A little vote of confidence wouldn’t hurt!”

Lilandra had to hold onto her seat as the Starjammer was struck by a series of high energy laser blasts. It triggered alarms throughout the ship, indicating that their shields were reaching critical levels. If they took too many hits, they would be nothing more than cosmic debris.

Corsair ignored these ominous warnings and clutched the controls of the spacecraft. Flashbacks of Desert Storm surged through his mind. He maneuvered the ship in a series of tight turns, pulling off a few barrel rolls and flying in a series of zig-zags. This made it difficult for the R-class interceptors to hit him with their rail guns. They had to keep using laser cannons. The whole time they stayed in perfect formation. Five spacecrafts formed a v-shaped attack pattern while the others swarmed around Starjammer in an effort to divert its course.

“Just hold on a bit longer!” he told the Starjammer, “We’re almost at the star gate!”

“That same gate that D’ken is probably closing as we speak?” questioned Lilandra.

“Raza overrode it to get us here. That same program will get us out of here.”

“How do you know they won’t follow us?”

“I’m working on that,” said Corsair intently, “I have a few ideas, but I’d rather not discuss them until they’ve worked!”

It didn’t sound too promising. It was enough to give Lilandra another pounding headache. Ever since D’ken launched this ambitious endgame of his, her head had been killing her. It wasn’t just stress either. Something was affecting her powers. Unfortunately, she had little time to investigate. Her life rested in the weary hands of this broken old man.

Corsair’s maneuvers grew more daring. They were at the edge of the star system, which meant they were entering dense fields of comets. Corsair flew the Starjammer right into several clouds of these icy chunks. His shields took more damage, but it disrupted the attack formation of the interceptors. Their laser canons started hitting stray debris more than the ship. It bought them some badly needed breathing space. Once beyond the cloud, Corsair kicked the Starjammer into overdrive. The star gate was finally within range.

“We’re almost there!” announced Corsair, “I’m broadcasting Raza’s program on the same quantum frequency! Hopefully D’ken’s tech boys haven’t closed the back door!”

“You’re placing a great deal of faith in Raza’s-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“Lilandra? Please tell me you’re not having a seizure at a time like this!” he groaned.

Corsair looked back and saw Lilandra clutching her head in agony. It was happening again. Recently, Lilandra had been afflicted by these mysterious psychic migraines as she called them. They seemed to coincide with D’ken’s latest plan. Lilandra suspected there was more to it. Corsair was no psychic expert, but as time went on they got worse. Even the advanced technology of the Shi’ar couldn’t figure it out.

Lilandra’s cries echoed over the alarms warning him about the shields. The interceptors were catching up while the star gate was drawing near. Corsair had to think fast. His original plan was to get Lilandra back to the rebels. That plan was looking increasingly foolish. The interceptors would just follow him and in Lilandra’s condition she may not be able to summon psychic help. That left him with few options, one of which he hoped to avoid at all costs.

“Damn it, Lilandra! You’re putting me in an awkward position!” grunted Corsair, “I didn’t want to resort to this, but you’re giving me few options!”

Corsair activated Raza’s special program through the ship’s computer. He entered in a different protocol, one that would change the destination of the star gate. On his main scope, he could see the gate closing in. The interceptors were closing in as well. They were firing their laser canons again to wear out his shields. Since he had to fly straighter in order to enter the star gate, that meant they could arm their rail guns. It was a race against time and the laws of physics.

“Hnn…my head! So much pain…can’t shut it out!” groaned Lilandra.

“Hang in there, empress! We’re almost there!” said the determined Corsair.

The Starjammer’s shields were almost gone. Corsair pushed the thrusters to their maximum output. He could see the star gate through the forward visual display just up ahead. These gates were designed to transport large cargo across interstellar space. They were tightly controlled by D’ken’s forces. It was up to Raza’s program to send them to the right part of the galaxy.

“Warning. Enemy target lock detected,” said the system AI.

“Quit bugging me! Just keep the shields up a little bit longer!” he urged the system.

“Shield levels down to three percent. A hit from a rail-gun will cause critical damage.”

“Then be a good alien piece of shit and divert all remaining power to the thrusters!”

More turbulence followed. Corsair gripped the controls tightly, watching as the star gate neared. It looked like Raza’s program was working. A glowing portal was forming within a large circular device. He would be cutting it close. If he passed through before it was fully formed, the Starjammer would be torn apart on the sub-atomic level. If he slowed down, he would be obliterated by D’ken’s rail guns. The margin for error was razor thin.

“Hnn…Charles,” groaned Lilandra in the back.

“Come on…just a little bit more!” said Corsair.

The interceptors trailing behind him took their final formation. All ten crafts were in a perfect V-shape. Their rail guns were armed. Their target was locked. With a clean shot ahead of them, they fired.

Just as their rail guns erupted with energy, the Starjammer reached the gate. It passed through just as the portal reached full power. The moment it disappeared, the shots from the rail guns struck the star gate. The impact from the high-speed projectiles was so great that several sections of the circular structure shattered, causing blinding bursts of energy that caused the interceptors to break formation.

“This is Imperial Interceptor One! That is a negative impact! I repeat, a negative impact! The Starjammer made it through the gate!”

“And we just destroyed the gate. Which of us is going to report this do Lord D’ken?” reported another interceptor over a quantum radio.

“It doesn’t matter who reports it. We’ll all be thrown to the Sperkacs if we don’t track where it went!”

“Sensors indicate the gate was reprogrammed by a malicious signal. It wasn’t encrypted so I was able to trace the path, but I don’t think D’ken will want to go after it.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because sir…they’re heading for Earth.”

X-men: Apocalypse is another big moment for the X-men franchise. It is sure to have a significant impact on the future of X-men as a whole. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series will never have that kind of impact, but I still want it to contribute to the greater mythos of X-men. And I want that contribution to be as awesome as it deserves to be. So for those X-men fans who take the time to see X-men: Apocalypse, please take the time to provide feedback on X-men Supreme. I value your input and I am committed to making this a worthy contribution to X-men. Either contact me directly or post your comments in the issues. Until next time, take care and best wishes and check out X-men: Apocalypse in theaters! Excelsior!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Role Playing With Cyclops and Jean Grey: A Sexy Side-Project

I like to stay busy in my craft, be it reviewing comics, writing books, or making X-men Supreme more awesome. I’m rarely short of ideas. I’m always motivated to be more awesome. So when I see an opportunity to add a little something extra to my X-men resume, I take it!

That is the purpose of this latest sexy side-project of mine. Those who follow my work know I write them from time to time. I get an idea for something that would never make it past the censors at Marvel, Fox, or the FCC for that matter. It’s my way of exploring more mature, sexier stories that you’re not going to find anywhere else. I try to make the nature of that story relevant. That’s not always possible, but this is not the case for this sexy side-project.

As some of you might know, Fox is releasing this little movie called X-men: Apocalypse and in that movie, a few notable characters play a major role. Those notable characters have a nasty history of being horribly screwed over in the X-men movies. Without spoiling too much, this movie seems to buck history, if only this once.

The less said about this moment, the better.
Yes, I’m talking about Cyclops and Jean Grey. James Marsden and Famke Jansen are out. Tye Sherriden and Sophie Turner are in. They’re entering a franchise that saw Cyclops get killed off-screen and Jean Grey become a dispassionate fuck toy for Wolverine. To say there’s room for improvement for these two in the movies would be a big fucking understatement. X-men: Apocalypse is, I hope, the first of many steps. It promises to be an uphill battle, but this is a side-project I hope will help with that effort.

Out with the old and in with the new!
One of the big problems surrounding Cyclops and Jean Grey as characters is that, despite being the most iconic romance in the history of X-men, they’re perceived as boring and bland. The movies certainly don’t help in this effort, but the comics are guilty of this as well. It’s true that while they can come off as a generic romance at times, that doesn’t hide the fact that these two share a genuine, passionate love story together. There’s a reason why they’re such an iconic romance in the annuls of comic books. I’ve tried to capture that romance in my X-men Supreme series. I’ve also tried to show that they can be fun, sexy, and interesting.

Well, this sexy side-project takes that several steps forward and to the edge of a cliff. In this story, I entertain the crazy possibility that two people in love can fool around and be a little adventurous at times. Shocking, right? What kind of twisted mind could imagine Cyclops and Jean Grey in that kind of situation? Well, my mind is more twisted than most so why the fuck not?

Their thoughts are FAR dirtier than you think.
For that reason, and in celebration of Cyclops and Jean Grey NOT being screwed over in an X-men movie, I present this simple sexy one-shot. You will never see this side of Cyclops and Jean Grey in the comics, movies, cartoons, or anywhere else that the FCC has say over. This is a side that I think is in every passionate love affair to some degree, a desire to do something reckless and adventurous. This is my way of giving these two a chance. I think after all the shit the comics and movies have put them through, they’ve earned it.

With all the projects I have going on, it’s hard to find time to explore the sexy ones, let alone finish them in time for an event like this. I hope that those who see X-men: Apocalypse are primed to enjoy this story. I hope to make more like it down the line. So long as my mind remains both twisted and awesome, I’ll be making the effort. Nuff said!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Extraordinary X-men #10: Nuff Said!

Stuck in an apocalyptic future, facing some evil motherfucker intent on keeping them there, and getting lost at least once along the way. Sound familiar? It should. It's basically the premise of 95 percent of all time travel movies at some point and the X-men do it almost as often as the Terminator. Sometimes, it brings out the best in the X-men, like Days of Future Past. Sometimes, it brings out the worst in the X-men, like pretty much every other story that came after that. It's hard to know where Apocalypse Wars will be on that spectrum, but the odds are not in its favor to say the least.

Extraordinary X-men was the catalyst for Apocalypse Wars. Other X-books are just jumping into this latest effort to make the Marvel timeline even more convoluted, but Extraordinary X-men #10 is several steps ahead and running head-first into the shit storm. They're in the future. They've met Apocalypse's new horsemen. They know they're fucked if they don't get the hell out of yet another dystopian future and unfuck the past. Again, this should all be pretty familiar. I'm just here to get drunk and let you know whether it's awesome, hopefully in that exact order.

A big part of any dystopian future involves the heroes getting their asses kicked and/or turned evil. The X-men have already succeeded in one of those tasks with Colossus having once again gone evil as a horseman of Apocalypse. I'd still argue that his stint with the Phoenix Five was better. At least he got a date with Kitty Pryde out of that shit. Here, he's got an ugly ass costume that Hamberto Ramos' art can't save and the personality depth of someone waiting in line at the post office.

As for the second task of getting their ass kicked, the X-men at least put up a balanced fight. They've got Old Man Wolverine, Storm, O5 Jean Grey, and a fucking Sentinel on their side. It can't be that lopsided. They don't get their asses handed to them, but they do lose that fancy gizmo containing hundreds of mutant embryos, which is kind of a big fucking deal in their time when mutants are being poisoned by clouds of Inhuman farts. So their asses might be intact, but they've still got a sizable boot mark.

As the X-men are getting more shit kicked on them in the future, Magik is trying to make the most of the present. For the past few issues, she's been working with an aspiring new mutant named Sapna. She was among the first to be rescued by this new team of Cyclops-hating, Limbo-based X-men and Magik of all people has taken her under her wing because of her uncanny ability to turn the demons of limbo into domesticated cats, which I guess makes them only slightly less evil. In terms of teachers, she as qualified as Emma Frost in a wet T-shirt contest.

Sapna is one of the few new mutants who is actually pretty likable. She might not have Magik's demon-loving persona and she's no Mean Girls evil blonde, but she's just the right amount of creepy and adorable. That's a fragile balance that isn't usually found outside an old Tim Burton movie. Her ability to make Magik seem less evil and give Hamberto Ramos an excuse to draw more demons makes her relevant for all the right reasons.

It all leads to an unexpectedly sweet moment between Sapna and Magik. Sapna basically becomes Magik's new padawan, having demonstrated an aptitude for magic and demon-taming. She's basically the only one who can be both a student and Magik's BFF. Considering Magik's recent history of being just one bad joke about her tits from unleashing a torrent of unholy hellfire on this world, this is exactly what she needs. What are the X-men, after all, if not those who help young aspiring mutants? Sure, they're still being poisoned and sterilized by Inhuman farts, but they're still helping those in need. That's way more than a race of xenophobic, slave-owning, elitist asshats who shall go nameless can say.

Back in the future, things aren't quite as warm and cuddly. That's not saying much, given that the warm and cuddly moment in this comic came from two young woman who love to play with demons, but that's the state of the X-men these days. Storm goes full emo here, lamenting how the X-men are fucked once again. They tried to survive their second bout of sterilization and they failed miserably. She's basically does what Cyclops never did and throws her arms up in frustration. I can't say I blame her, but I also can't help but point out the hypocrisy. She bitches about Cyclops, but fails miserably to wield the kind of poise and leadership that helped unite the human race and secure a place in Emma Frost's panties.

This time, it takes a full blown halftime speech from Iceman to get Storm's ass in gear. Yes, she needed a pep talk from fucking Iceman to get motivated again. That's not to knock Iceman's speech. It's pretty damn good here. I'm sure it could rally a typical high school football team from a two-touchdown deficit in a game. It just kind of feels hollow because he's giving it in a dystopian future and he's not saying anything that dozens of X-men haven't said before him. Captain America can probably talk in his sleep and give a better speech, but it still does the job. That's really the best the X-men can hope for these days.

With Storm having had the emo kicked out of her, the X-men make their way across Omega World to find Colossus. Along the way, Glob Herman decides to take another chance to get a place in O5 Jean Grey's panties. He probably figures if O5 Beast can have a shot despite being a total douche-bag, then his odds are pretty damn good.

That said, it's a plot that has been overplayed and overdone so often now that I'm sure O5 Jean has an adamantium lock on her panties now. It's like someone with OCD who always needs to have hand sanitize in their pocket. O5 Jean always has to have someone trying to bone her. Glob Herman is just the latest and while he's not nearly as big a douche as O5 Beast, this shit is so old and overplayed that it has no dramatic weight. Glob Herman is a D-lister on his best day. Jean Grey is now tied to Sophie Turner, aka Sansa fucking Stark. It's not a balanced relationship is all I'm saying.

Unfortunately for the OCD crowd, Glob Herman never gets to profess his undying love because they end up getting attacked by Moloids in Galactus' corpse. If that's not a clear enough sign that the universe doesn't want Glob Herman's glowing globby dick anywhere near O5 Jean, then what is?

Naturally, the mole monsters go for the pretty teenage girl. Unfortunately for them, the pretty teenage girl is O5 Jean Grey. Showing she's not in the mood for this shit in a dystopian future, she unleashes a little Phoenix-light ass-kicking. She doesn't faint. She doesn't need anyone to save her, be it Glob Herman or Old Man Logan. Feminists and Sophie Turner fans should fucking love this moment. It acts as a nice reminder that O5 Jean deserves to be with the X-men's heavy hitters. Sure, it makes Glob Herman want to bone her even more, but I can't say I blame him.

That means that this week, Jean Grey fights Moloids in a dystopian future and battles Apocalypse in the early 80s. All points considered, it's a damn good week to be Jean Grey.

In the past, it's not all teaching new students, sharing hugs, and playing with demons. Forge, who has been tracking the X-men in the future, once again gets his balls busted when he loses contact with Cerebra. On top of that, Magik gives him an anti-pep talk about him and Storm, basically telling him that his chances of seeing her naked again are basically the same as my chances of scoring a date with Jennifer Lawrence. There's another Wolverine walking around. Sure, that Wolverine is old, gritty, and jaded as fuck, but he'll still make Storm hornier than Forge ever will.

It's kind of a sad and you can't help but feel sorry for Forge, but he still gets to have his own giant robot. How many people outside old Japanese cartoons can say that? The problem is that losing contact with his prized robot means the X-men in the future are even more screwed than before. That means Magik has to get her demon-loving ass in gear and help them, which puts X-Haven at risk. I say if it's a choice between death by demons and death by clouds of Inhuman farts, I'd go with demons.

In the future, Glob Herman is keeping it in his pants for now. The rest of the X-men finally arrive at Apocalypse's domain. They don't know Magik is on her way or that Forge has completely lost track of them, but I think they're used to being this screwed by now. That's just how the X-men roll these days.

Colossus also knows they've arrived and, being a proud horseman, he's more than eager to screw the X-men over even more. Because why the fuck not? They're already in a dytopian future. It's like taking a piss on a pile of radioactive waste. It can't possibly do anything to make it less fucked, right?

Well surprisingly, Colossus goes the extra distance here. Instead of just kicking the X-men's asses and making Storm in need of another pep talk, he throws Venom at them and gets it to infect Old Man Logan. So now, he doesn't even have to kick their ass. He just has to let Venom take over Old Man Logan, a man who already slaughtered his friends once before, and enjoy the show. That, my friends, is called working smart and not hard. it awesome?

Well, it's not a filler issue. There's that. Iceman gives an inspirational speech while Storm goes emo. There's that too. O5 Jean Grey kicks ass in a way that Sophie Turner would do well to study. That's always a bonus. Glob Herman wants to bone her. That's not exactly breaking new ground these days. Magik is showing her soft side and her crass side. That's par for the course with an extra birdie or two. Old Man Logan gets a face full of Venom symbiote. Not gonna lie. That is kind of boner-inducing.

So all in all, this issue was all over the place. Some parts fell flat, like Storm going all emo. Others actually move the story forward, but only by so much. There is some awesome shit here that's worth the effort. It's not going to melt anyone's brain matter, but it's not going to put anyone to sleep either. Like half a line of blow, it's not the full high you want, but it's better than nothing. Extraordinary X-men #10 continues the tradition of the post-Secret Wars X-men being too screwed to be more than great, but being screwed hasn't stopped them from being awesome. Hell, if an issue can make Iceman, O5 Jean, and Glob fucking Herman awesome, there's at least some hope. It's best to cling to it before another cloud of Inhuman farts crush it.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Through Loosely Connected Sub-plots, a Foundation Is Laid in Civil War II #0

The following is my review of Civil War II #0, which was posted on

Any college student cramming for a final exam can attest that procrastination is a common, often unavoidable aspect of human nature. We human beings simply aren't wired to be overly proactive. The caveman in us often refuses to acknowledge the danger until a stampede of wooly mammoths is charging our village at a rate that registers as a small to mid-ranged Earthquake. We try to be proactive. We understand its values and benefits. Despite this, our capacity for foresight is laughable most of the time.

In the world of superheroes, killer robots, invading aliens, and whatever Tony Stark happens to build on an off-day, the stakes are much higher than any exam. Knowing when and how Thanos will attempt to destroy the Earth and spit on its ashes is pretty important. It's the difference between needing another Helicarrier and needing a time machine.

It's a factor that has many real world parallels. Law enforcement, the military, the NSA, and annoying internet ads need a certain level of foresight to function. That's what makes Civil War II such an intriguing concept and Civil War II #0 makes it a point to belabor the importance of this concept. It's a point worth belaboring, as those same procrastinating college students are destined to find out the hard way. The conflict doesn't erupt here, but the mood is definitively established.

The method for establishing this mood in Civil War II #0 isn't necessarily concise, nor is it engaging at times. However, it still conveys the necessary sentiment through the experiences of characters like She-Hulk, War Machine, and Captain Marvel. These characters help shape the mood of the conflict before it erupts. They don't reveal anything about the characters that can't be gleaned from Wikipedia, but they do establish their current mindset within the context of Civil War II.

Through these loosely connected sub-plots, the foundation is laid. On one side, She-Hulk argues passionately for the defense of the Jester, a known villain who most card-carrying members of the Avengers wouldn't hesitate to punch. Her defense, however, is as articulate as it is relevant, both in the context of Civil War II and in the context of the real world where no self-respecting criminal calls themselves the Jester.

The crime in this case may or may not qualify as a crime. The Jester isn't charged with stealing or hurting anyone. He's charged with merely discussing it. For him, the mere act of thinking about a crime is a crime in and of itself. It is, by definition, a thought crime. In the real world, civilized societies find convicting people of such crimes untenable. Maybe it's a little more understandable in a world where telepaths like Emma Frost and Jean Grey exist, but it's still inconsistent with a basic understanding of justice.

Our world might not have telepaths, but it does reflect a real problem, as the original Civil War did a decade earlier. In the realm of justice and security, it's not always clear what constitutes an imminent threat. For some people, a threat only becomes pressing when someone is standing in a doorway dressed as a clown and carrying a knife. For others, a critical tweet constitutes a threat. The line isn't just blurred. It's a constantly shifting, often nebulous concept that rarely keeps up with the needs of society.

She-Hulk ends up losing her case, but her concept of proactive justice is very different from that of Captain Marvel. As a member of the Ultimates, who need to be exceedingly proactive when dealing with threats like Thanos and Galactus, she laments on how many close calls the Earth has had. This doesn't even count all the times retcons and time travel were necessary to save the day. She understands the need for foresight better than most non-psychic characters. Moreover, she expresses a desire to seek means of improving their foresight.

This leads to the primary catalyst for Civil War II, namely the Inhuman named Ulysses. There's really nothing special about his transformation or him as a character. He's as generic and forgettable as most civilians in the Marvel universe with no direct or indirect ties to Peter Parker. He just happens to be outside as the Terrigen Mist sweeps over his college campus. That's really all there is to this key character in Civil War II.

The drama is lacking, but the sentiment expressed by characters like She-Hulk and Captain Marvel are nicely developed. The situations are somewhat contrived, but Brian Michael Bendis does an admirable job crafting the thoughts and feelings of these characters. He sets the right tone and establishes the right mood, ensuring it's ripe for tension and conflict. Since the first Civil War inspired a movie that's on track to make a billion dollars at the box office, this is vital in terms of capturing the spirit of its predecessor.

While this spirit is present and well-developed, the overall story is lacking and disorganized. There are very few connecting threads tying the narrative together. Everything just happens separately and randomly. That's not to say the plot of Civil War II #0 is forced. It simply lacks organization and cohesion. It's the opening credits to a much larger story and not enough is done to make this necessary component of the overall narrative more engaging.

The greatest strength of Civil War II #0 is still the insight of the characters involved. This insight succeeds in the same way the premise of the original Civil War succeeded, creating an issue that has real-world parallels and major implications, especially for a fictional world where planet-eating entities are a legitimate concern. It's bland in terms of substance, but necessary with respect to context. It lacks a larger entertainment value, but such details aren't always possible for a certain narrative, Deadpool being the lone exception.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jackpot by Jack Fisher ON SALE NOW!

Anyone who has followed this blog in any capacity knows I like to stay busy. I don't restrict myself to one project or one kind of project. I always want to be working on something, refining my craft and becoming a better writer. I always want to be improving. One day, I'd like to be able to make a living writing. That day has yet to arrive, but I'm going to keep working towards that goal.

A part of that process involves getting my non-fanfiction work out in the world for others to see. To date, I haven't secured an agent or a publisher to back my work. So I've been relying on self-publishing to this point. So far, I've self-published three books since the end of 2012. I have several other completed manuscripts that I'm shopping around, hoping to get published in a more comprehensive form. Today, I'm adding to my writing resume by posting another self-published work. This one isn't as big or as elaborate as some of my other books, like Skin Deep. But for those who enjoy my sexy side-projects, there's still plenty to love.

This book is called Jackpot. Calm down, Spider-Man fans. It's not exactly what you think, but I'd be lying if I said my experience with romance in comics didn't inspire it on some levels. This is a book I worked on earlier this year. It's an idea I had brewing and one that reflects my love of Las Vegas. If you haven't gone, what's you're excuse? If this book doesn't convince you to give it a try, nothing will. Enjoy!

Jonathan Jackson Daniels knows a thing or two about luck. He came from a no-name town. He worked a dead end job. He lived his whole life seeing few get lucky breaks and even fewer make something of that luck. Then, in the luckiest break anyone could get, he won the lottery. He has the chance of a lifetime, but is scared to death of squandering it.

So before he tells anyone about his big break, he takes a trip to Las Vegas. He goes not knowing what to expect, only that he's going to indulge in the fruits of his luck. That's where he meets an enchanting woman named Janine “Jani” Jasmine. She makes it her mission to give him the time of his life, pushing his newfound luck to the absolute limit. But can a small-town guy like Jonathan handle her? Is he destined to squander his jackpot like so many others?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Beyond the Credits: Independence Day #2

The following is my review of Independence Day #2, which was posted on

Sci-fi movies love to give us an overly simplistic view of how alien invasions play out. The sequence of events is so standard it might as well have its own checklist. The aliens invade, things start blowing up, people scream in terror, all hope is lost, and the human race miraculously rallies to defeat the evil invaders. After that, the credits roll and the audience is left to assume that the world becomes one big utopian paradise in the mold of an old Coca Cola commercial.

It might leave a movie audience feeling satisfied, but overly simplistic resolutions rarely make for greater intrigue. Few movies embody this spirit more than 1996's Independence Day. In terms of alien invasion movies, it is the gold standard by which others are measured. It doesn't just perfect the formula for sci-fi movies. It pours time and money to create a sense of scope and scale that just can't be achieved without a generous CGI budget.

This movie is complete antithesis of the B-rate sci-fi movies of yesteryear that were made on budgets that only Roger Corman could use. In the colorful history of the sci-fi genre, Independence Day remains a defining movie of its time, but it also falls into the same trap of simplifying the aftermath of an alien invasion, leaving the audience to fill in the blanks.

Enter Victor Gischler and Steve Scott, who pick up where the end credits of the movie left off in Independence Day #2. This series, which initially comes off as another shameless promotion tool for an upcoming summer blockbuster, crafts an entirely new narrative around the aftermath of this iconic movie.

This narrative doesn't include familiar names like President Whitmoore, Captain Steven Hillard, or David Levinson. It introduces a new set of characters in the first issue and sends them on a mission to search a crashed alien ship at the bottom of the ocean. Independence Day #2 gives these characters a chance to show their worth and while it might not be the same worth of Will Smith, they prove they have plenty to offer.

These characters begin as generic military types, but given the overall narrative of Independence Day, it's perfectly appropriate. Captain Joshua Adams and Dr. Jessica Morgan are the architects of this post-credits adventure. They decide, with the blessing of President Whitmoore, to investigate one of the crashed alien ships at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It goes about as smoothly nearly every other venture in the Independence Day world. That means aliens attack and humanity is at a woeful disadvantage.

The action and spirit of the movie is definitely there. It certainly becomes heightened in Independence Day #2 and since the first issue took the time to establish the characters, the plot has a level of dramatic weight. That weight, however, becomes a bit too familiar when this action-packed investigation fails to deliver the same level of drama as its big screen predecessor.

While it's unreasonable to expect a comic to have the same impact as a movie with production budget bigger than some countries, it's reasonable to hope that the foundation left by the movie gives the narrative plenty of room for refinement. That refinement is lacking in Independence Day #2. There are times when the plot has the depth of a generic video game. If Independence Day had been a video game, this might have been appropriate. Instead, it just feels too generic and it has no dazzling CGI to make it memorable.

This is also where the overly simplistic assumptions about the aftermath of an alien invasion catch up to this story. The end of the movie gives the impression that shooting down these big, city-sized space ships effectively ends the alien threat. It doesn't broach the possibility that some aliens survive, some ships manage to fight back, or these highly intelligent aliens realize that they just got hacked by a '90s era Apple laptop. Well that possibility is more than just a passing concern and there's no time for President Whitmoore to give another inspiring speech to address it.

The aliens, apparently, are just that determined to destroy Earth and every living thing on it. If they can't do it with their fleet of city-sized space ships, they'll do it with a more subtle fleet of underwater ships. In the context of the movie and the themes it conveyed, it makes these highly advanced aliens seem somewhat inept, giving the species they're trying to destroy huge targets when they just as easily could've tried a more covert approach. Then again, being so advanced, their concept of ineptitude might be alien as well.

Whatever their tactics, the story maintains a strong, concise plot that carries the characters through an alien ambience that feels perfectly in line with what the movie established. It doesn't have quite the same visual impact as the big budget CGI, but Steve Scott manages to convey the same themes and at only a fraction of the cost. That might be good news for the accountants working for 20th Century Fox, but it's not going to have the same bedazzling impact that make blockbusters like Independence Day so iconic.

There are alien environments, armed clashes, and intense action sequences. There is even an intriguing plot that builds on the ending of the movie. It just doesn't build enough to make it the kind of spectacle that'll make people feel better about overpaying for a movie ticket. Independence Day #2 has the basics, but lacks the refinements. It does enough to generate intrigue, but not enough to inspire awe and that's often the difference between a successful blockbuster and an egregious waste of popcorn.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Old Man Logan #6: Nuff Said!

With the possible exception of Keith Richards, getting old tends to degrade a man in every possible way. He can't drink, smoke, fight, or fuck as well as he used to. For years, Wolverine was the reigning champ of all those things. Now, Old Man Logan isn't as interested in defending his title. Again, with the exception of Keith Richards, it's almost impossible to defend.

This hasn't stopped Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino from showing that Old Man Logan still has some fight in him. His arrival in the mainline Marvel universe has been confusing, brutal, and a little embarrassing since he showed up bare ass naked and not one woman tried to jump his bone. This is a version of Wolverine who follows a very different path and holds himself to a different standard. Old Man Logan #6 takes him farther down this path and if he can keep his clothes on, he might just make it through, although not without a fuckton of blood stains.

At the moment, he's trust trying to protect his future alternate-universe baby momma. If that sounds fucked up, then you clearly haven't been following Wolverine comics for very long. Sure, Maureen in the mainline Marvel universe is just a kid. And sure, she's not the same woman Old Man Logan marries in his universe. Even so, this isn't even the fifth most fucked up thing that happens in a Wolverine comic on a regular basis. There are clones of clones running around for fucks sake. So let's not overthink the situation here.

It's really just a case of Old Man Logan looking to protect someone he knows is worth protecting. He encountered her in the last issue. He's set up shop to make it seem like he's just a grizzled old drifter in need of whiskey money. He's managed to get young Maureen to trust him enough to find her missing dog, Burger. At a time when young girls wouldn't trust most adults with their unwashed underwear, that says a lot.

Old Man Logan, being far more honorable than half the old men in shitty anime, goes about keeping his promise. He explores this northern Canadian redneck town. Jeff Lemire provides more insight into Old Man Logan, as he's done since this series began. He continues to do omega level work fleshing him out, exploring how Old Man Logan sees himself in this rugged landscape. He's not the same Logan who loved to bust Cyclops' balls and hit on married women. He's a jaded old man, trying to save what little good there is in this world. It's the kind of shit that gives Clint Eastwood an erection.

Sadly, finding Maureen's dog dead and butchered kills any boner. It ensures he'll have to deal with a very sad and whiny girl later on. The fact this girl is his future wife in another timeline is sure not going to help, but he actually has more pressing concerns because he quickly finds out who killed the dog. And they happened to have a fucking helicopter. Since only the Palin family has been known to shoot animals from helicopters, it's safe to assume there's some horrifying shit on the lose.

It doesn't take long for that horrifying shit to make itself known. As we saw at the end of the previous issue, the Reavers are in town and they're looking to flex their cyborg boners with a little target practice. Since they're clearly dry-humping Skynet on the side, they start shooting at the innocent civilians of this isolated town that probably gets fewer killer robot attacks than most. Old Man Logan has a big fucking problem with this and tries to fight back. The problem is these are enhanced cyborgs. He's a jaded old man who is several decades past his prime. Whereas the younger Logan probably could've torn apart the Reavers and done it with a goddamn boner, Old Man Logan is bound to struggle and probably can't expect much of a boner.

So when he comes across Bonebreaker, it's not a fair fight. It still doesn't stop Old Man Logan from being wonderfully badass while Andrea Sorrentino's art makes everything so wonderfully appealing visually. That visual appeal still involves Old Man Logan getting run over while we have to imagine the sound of bones breaking. Those with a weak stomach or a bad hangover will probably need to look away, but it's still worth the dry heaves.

It's worth it because despite being a jaded old fuck, Old Man Logan is still pretty fucking badass. He can take out one lone Reaver. Sure, he gets his legs partially run over. And sure, he gets shot point blank by a mini-canon. But it still ends with him driving metal claws right through Bonebreaker's neck. I'm sure getting run over by a psychotic cyborg sucks, but if it ends with driving metal claws through a psychotic cyborg's head...worth it!

This naturally wakes this sleepy town up in the worst possible way. Old Man Logan meets up with the sheriff, who is probably used to handling no worse than a bar fight after a hockey game. Thankfully, he treats Old Man Logan better than most cops have ever treated mutants or old men. He actually listens to Old Man Logan when he warns them that there are killer cyborgs on the loose. Rather than assuming he's on PCP and shooting him, the sheriff listens. In a world where Tony Stark invents something destined to blow up in his face every other day, the threat of killer cyborgs is perfectly appropriate. If only I could use that as a way to get out of the last three bullshit parking tickets I've had.

Old Man Logan quickly learns what everyone who saw the original Robocop already knows. Cyborgs are pretty fucking efficient when it comes to causing mayhem. The Reavers tear through this small town full of innocent people, probably laughing their asses off and dancing to 80s funk rock in the process. Those that are alive are probably wishing they tried their luck in Mexico instead. At least Mexico has fucking beaches and better weed.

This doesn't stop Old Man Logan from trying to protect them. With help from the Sheriff, Old Man Logan leads the rest of the town to a quarry. Because a wide open area full of heavy stones and mining equipment qualifies as safe in these parts. Go figure. However, some people are still missing and that includes Maureen. Never one to leave a pretty girl behind, even if she isn't his future wife in an alternate timeline, Old Man Logan prepares to get his ass run over again.

This time, however, Old Man Logan arrives in time before anyone can get maimed. It's a good thing too because the story comes dangerously close to getting too dark and depressing, even by Old Man Logan standards. So seeing him stab a Reaver and save a school of innocent children in the process isn't just satisfying. It's an outright relief. Sure, these kids are probably scarred for life, but they live in an era internet porn is on every phone and Donald Trump is running for President. They should be used to being scarred for life at this point. If not, they will be with or without crossing paths with killer cyborgs.

Scarred or not, it makes for a nice and dramatic moment between Old Man Logan and young Maureen. And no, not in the creepy way that happens in over 90 percent of anime porn in Japan. This girl who barely knows Old Man Logan is already hugging him while the other kids are busy pissing themselves. It's further proof that she's capable of being Wolverine's wife in the future, even if it's not in this timeline. It also convinces Old Man Logan that she can lead the rest of these kids to safety after they're done pissing themselves. It's wonderfully fitting, full of that special brand of drama that Lemire and Sorrentino have established in this series. It also allows Old Man Logan to focus more on stabbing killer Cyborgs in the head and that's good for everyone in this case.

It all seems like such a good plan on paper. Let Maureen lead the kids to safety while Old Man Logan gives the Reavers the kind of treatment second only to Comcast's customer support service in terms of horror. Naturally, shit goes wrong fast. That happens with Wolverine in every timeline. This time, one of the Reavers manages to grab Maureen and hold her at gunpoint, which effectively diverts Old Man Logan's focus once more. It's another powerful moment that brings out the right kinds of drama in Old Man Logan, albeit in a way that's more forced. Even so, it'll just make the moment Old Man Logan stabs his cybernetic ass all the more satisfying. it awesome?

Well it doesn't have the same dramatic gut punch that previous issues have had, but that's like looking at Jenna Jameson's tits and saying they're not as big as Pamela Anderson's. Both are still innately awesome and both grant the same boners. Old Man Logan #6 isn't about mulling on the past of a shitty timeline. It's about protecting the present from assholes doing everything possible to shit on this timeline. It's been Old Man Logan's primary goal since he arrived and it couldn't be more pressing.

There are still plenty of bloody, brutal moments that bring out the best in Old Man Logan. Sure, he takes a few blasts to the torso and gets run over, but that's a typical Monday for Wolverine in most every timeline. He still finds ways to be badass, pissed off, and determined in all the right ways. It doesn't matter that he's old as fuck and woefully ill-equipped to take on the Reavers. That just brings out the best in him even more.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

All-New Wolverine #8: Nuff Said!

How do you create a character that is both cute and insanely violent? I'm not talking about Looney Toons type violence. I'm talking violence that involves stabbing people in the spine, spitting in their wounds, and generally all the shit that gives Deadpool a boner. There's no how-to guide, but if there were, X-23 would be the perfect case study. She is now the new Wolverine and she carries on his bloody legacy with pride. With all due respect to Hugh Jackman, she's just a lot cuter while doing it.

She's cuter and she has an adorable clone sister. It might sound like the premise of a shitty Disney movie, but Tom Taylor has made it work. X-23 and Gabby are adorable in their endless pursuit to survive, thrive, and maim any motherfucker that gets in their way. All-New Wolverine #8 continues that journey. It's still amazing to think something so adorable and violent could be so much fun, but like a stripper hugging a teddy bear, you just can't help but enjoy it.

Like most shitty Liam Neeson movies, it begins with a shady arms deal. Someone is selling something to someone who wants something destroyed. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that the basis of at leas 60 percent of our economy these days? It happens in the middle of the ocean in international waters, which sounds smart in the real world. In a world where SHIELD has fucking helicarriers and Maria Hill has a pussy boner for fucking up arms deals, it's about as smart as smoking a joint outside a police station.

The deal is effectively killed. Nobody is getting any fancy weapons or making friends with any Jason Stathem types. It's pretty typical stuff for SHIELD. It's the kind of shit that doesn't usually require them to call Thor, Captain America, or the Hulk. Hell, it's one of the few ways they show they're not more inept than the Bush Administration. But what's so dangerous that it requires a couple of dip-shits to think that international waters is safe in the Marvel universe?

Well, it's in some fancy Arc of the Covenant type box so it must be pretty damn destructive. SHIELD tends to bust up deals that involve equipment capable of low-yield nuclear warheads and nothing less. So why the fuck is this more terrifying than a couple of dip-shits who want to play with rocket launchers? Well, it's definitely fucking terrifying because when they open the box, the look like I do when I'm stoned and find out I'm out of hot pockets. It's that fucking horrifying.

We go from horrifying to obscenely adorable. How adorable you ask? How about a young girl and her pet wolverine, Jonathan? It's even more adorable than it sounds. That's right. Gabby, X-23's already adorable clone sister, has a pet wolverine now, thanks to Squirrel Girl. Sure, it leads to awkward encounters when they for a walk in the park, but that somehow makes it even more adorable.

Aside from being cute, there is a meaningful exchange here. X-23 is basically giving Gabby the same speech Logan gave her at one point, saying she should take time away from being a fucking meat puppet and learn to be a kid. Preferably, she should learn this without spending time as a teenage prostitute, as X-23 did. Gabby doesn't seem too happy about it. What kid willingly wants to go to school? Between that or being a meat puppet, it is a tough call.

X-23 does have an ace up her sleeve that can sway even the most stubborn kids. No, it's not a stern talking to by Captain America. It's food. Sorry Cap, but good food trumps patriotism and inspiring speeches. That's just a fact.

This wonderfully appropriate conversation that helps further develop X-23's relationship with Gabby is rudely interrupted by Maria Hill. She's not even courteous about it. She basically shows up the NSA, calling her on her phone in a way she can't block and parking the fucking Hellicarrier right out her window. So yeah, she can't exactly hang up on her. At the very least, Maria Hill is kind of enough to pay for the food X-23 orders. She's not total cunt. She just loves to make everyone think that so she can get shit done. Hillary Clinton should probably take notes.

Maria Hill brings X-23 and Gabby on board to analyze the wannabe Ark of the Covenant, which they have in a containment cell that's probably equipped to contain Hulk's jizz if need be. It gives Hill a chance to provide more context on the shady deal that they so skillfully fucked up earlier. She adds that this thing has destroyed and killed prospective buyers and SHIELD agents alike. So they need to be real fucking careful with it and treat it like a vial of Archie Manning's semen at a fertility clinic.

It's a serious situation, but that doesn't stop Gabby from being adorable. That food X-23 bought her earlier is doing its job. It happens to be Chinese food. The good kind, that is. Speaking as someone who gets high and hungry as fuck, I can attest to the value of good Chinese food. Even Maria Hill seems to understand it. Now Gabby knows it too. It's adorable, but fuck it makes me hungry.

But there's another reason why Maria Hill specifically called X-23 and not someone who can cash in a couple favors with Thor, Captain Marvel, or the Hulk. Apparently, Hill had someone helping her with this shit storm. And that someone was Old Man Logan.

Yes, this is finally happening. It's been brewing like imported whiskey for months now, the eventual meeting between X-23, the new Wolverine, and Old Man Logan, the cantankerous old Wolverine from another timeline. I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets a boner contemplating the eventual meeting between these two. Hell, I might not be the only one who gets a boner watching Deadpool while stoned. But this is finally happening. It has taken a while and it has been building, but it's so close you want to cop a feel.

That's not to say X-23 is quite as enthusiastic about it. She immediately rejects the notion that Old Man Logan is anywhere near the Logan she once knew. He's a stranger to her and that's true to some extent. It's also true that X-23 is a fucking teenager whose ability to handle her emotions are questionable at best. So yeah, get some popcorn and some weed for this.

As X-23 is processing this, Maria Hill's people finally make an overdue yet important revelation. The contents of that fancy Ark of the Covenant box might not melt anyone's faces, but it will make more than a few people shit themselves. It looks like the kind of green goop that my old calculus teacher used to style her hair. Actually, it's pheromones. Specifically, they're pheromones for Fing Fang Foom.

Naturally, this draws out Fing Fang Foom like William Shatner at a Star Trek convention. He's either enraged or horny as fuck because he immediately attacks the Helicarrier and in the middle of the Hudson Bay no less. So yeah, this is why the idea of it being sold as a weapon is so fucking terrifying to SHIELD. A pissed off/horny dragon is every bit as dangerous as a nuclear warhead.

The action gets pretty intense pretty quickly, which has become wonderfully typical of All-New Wolverine. X-23 goes into Wolverine mode, protecting Gabby generally not shitting herself at the sight of a pissed off/horny dragon, as most ordinary people are inclined to do. Maria Hill goes into Maria Hill mode, realizing that dragon pheromones are one of those things that should be buried in the same hole as the last Indiana Jones movie. It still doesn't stop Gabby from making a dirty joke because she's a fucking kid.

Can we all just agree at this point that Gabby is fucking adorable? She's officially the opposite of Hope fucking Summers.

But it's not just enough to protect Gabby and let her make dirty jokes. X-23 decides to raise the stakes even more when she surmises where Old Man Logan is and why she can't exactly delay their meeting for much longer. Apparently, Old Man Logan is in one of the last places anyone with or without a healing factor wants to be. No, I'm not talking about the unlucky fucks who have to clean up after the Hulk. Fing Fang Foom fucking ate him.

Admit it, you're not even remotely surprised. Hell, it's easy to imagine this not even being the first time a version of Wolverine got swallowed by a dragon. And now X-23 has to get herself eaten in order to save him. In terms of two Wolverines from two different worlds meeting, this is as fucked up as it is fitting. it awesome?

This issue has a cute teenage girl, X-23, a dragon, and a pet wolverine. On top of that, it lays the foundation for X-23's first meeting with Old Man Logan. All-New Wolverine #8 literally has everything it needs to be awesome without including Emma Frost's tits. It's cute thanks to Gabby. It's exciting thanks to the big fucking dragon that shows up. It's dramatic thanks to X-23 trying to help her clone sister avoid the fate she suffered. It even has an adorable animal side-kick in Jonathan the Wolverine. I legitimately don't know how anyone can read this and not enjoy something about it.

This is the current state of X-23 as the All-New Wolverine. She's badass with plenty of drama. She also has an adorable young side-kick with an adorable pet. She also fights dragons every now and then. So to those Wolverine fans still sad that Hugh Jackman is retiring next year, fear not! All-New Wolverine #8 ensures the bar for awesome is still as high as it should be. It just has an adorable pet wolverine now on top of it. Did Logan ever manage anything that awesome? I rest my case.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hope, Love, and Bikinis: Starfire #12

The following is my review of Starfire #12, which was posted on

There are some characters who are simply beyond redemption and not all of them are clones, robots, or Nazis. Sometimes, a character goes in a direction that takes them past the point of no return, rendering them a punchline and a cautionary tale. That's not to say Starfire got close to that point, but she came closer than most after DC's New 52 reboot.

It's hard to forget the bland yet buxom persona that Starfire wielded in the early days of Red Hood and the Outlaws. That version of the character had the presence of groupie for an '80s hair metal band and only a fraction of the personality. She carried herself in a way that makes a Kardashian seem reserved. It marked a complete departure of the lovable yet immodest character that is supposed to embody the heart and soul of Teen Titans. That makes the journey that ends in Starfire #12 all the more satisfying.

Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti take on the daunting challenge of making Starfire lovable and interesting in a way that doesn't involve presenting her as a walking Playboy centerfold. It's challenging because it's easy to make a beautiful woman appealing, even if she's an alien with orange skin and liberal attitudes towards nudity. It's like a cheat code on a difficult video game, tempting writers to enter it every time they get stuck.

Beautiful female characters will always have a certain level. The forces of evolution hardwire male brains into being drawn to them. The real challenge is building on top of that appeal so that it doesn't completely define the character. Conner and Palmiotti succeed in that challenge any number of ways throughout this series, giving Starfire new friends, new roles, and new opportunities to do more than just look good in a bikini. Starfire #12 takes those successes and celebrates them, literally at one point.

This isn't a sad, solemn goodbye. This isn't a tragic, depressing memory in the making that will require therapy at some point. Starfire is leaving the home she built in this series, but she's leaving it with a smile and a sense of hope. At a time when DC Comics can't resist the urge to kill Superman in every possible medium, it's a breath of fresh air that brings out the best of character who badly needs it.

The friends that Starfire made in this series are the main ingredient that make this series work. Stella, Sol, and Terra aren't just supporting characters who manage to move Starfire's story forward without dying. They each have their own story to tell. Those stories make up vital moments throughout this series and Starfire #12 acts as a culmination of those stories.

Stella, a wonderfully balanced female character with a crass sense of humor, acts as an anchor of sorts for Starfire. She helps reveal both the harsh and not-so-harsh truths of living in a world populated by humans who don't share Starfire's strength, powers, or attitudes towards nudity. She's crass at times, but in a loving sort of way. She's a perfect complement for Starfire, being all too human at times and having a good sense of humor about it. When there are so many jokes to be made about Starfire's sexualized persona, this kind of attitude is practically necessary.

In addition to Stella's friendship, Starfire enjoys a more intimate connection with her brother Sol, but not in the typical Baywatch tradition. There is chemistry. There is sincerity. It is not on par with Superman and Lois Lane, but it's more meaningful than 95 percent of the relationships Tony Stark has ever had.

Sol isn't some nerdy, Big Bang Theory stereotype either. He does rescue work for the Coast Guard and recently lost someone dear to him. He's as well-rounded and sympathetic a character as anyone can be without being too much like Batman. The culmination of his story actually helps bring out another important component of Starfire's character that sets her apart and makes her appealing, regardless of whether or not she's wearing a bikini.

As Starfire is making the hard decision to leave Key West, she finds out that Sol is now romantically involved with a co-worker. This isn't a love triangle though. There isn't another Wolverine/Jean Grey/Cyclops scenario where someone gets heartbroken or goes on a cosmic-powered rampage. Starfire, once again showing some very alien attitudes, is genuinely happy for Sol. She loves that someone she loves has found love. It might sound like the kind of hippie philosophy that only works on communes and dirty movies, but it actually highlights an important part of Starfire's character.

Because of how she looks, what she does, and how she does it, it's easy to forget sometimes that Starfire is an alien. She comes from a very alien culture. She's even explored that culture at various points in this series, making it clear that her people are loving and empathic. To them, the idea of being upset that someone else has found love seems irrational and cruel. It creates an important context for Starfire's character that's easy to overlook when she's wearing a bikini, but it gives her a level of depth and sincerity that makes her easy to love.

Pretty much everything Starfire does in Starfire #12 helps make her a lovable character again. She surrounds herself with her new friends, gives them a sincere goodbye, and then leaves. It might not sound exciting, but it conveys the necessary drama, making the narrative of the overall series feel complete.

For those who didn't follow the series from its inception, it might be difficult to appreciate the story as a whole. It does lack action and excitement compared to previous issues, but Starfire #12 doesn't need a final showdown or an elaborate boss battle. It just needs to complete this portion of Starfire's journey as a character and it's a journey she needed to take, even if she didn't do some parts of it fully clothed.

After Starfire #12, Conner and Palmiotti can now boldly claim that they rebuilt Starfire's character. They made her lovable beyond her innate sex appeal. It's a remarkable accomplishment in the grand scheme of superhero characters. When a female character can be both lovable and sexy, everybody wins.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, May 13, 2016

X-men Supreme Issue 135: Spirit Misguide is LIVE!

I hope everyone enjoyed sitting through Captain America: Civil War multiple times. Now the wait for X-men: Apocalypse can finally begin. While I tend to have a very cynical view of the X-men movies in general, I’m going to try and give X-men: Apocalypse a chance. With Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Storm, Psylocke, and Angel joining the cast, it would take genuine effort for this movie not to be entertaining on some levels. Although I’ve been wrong before, I do hope to make the wait for this movie easier with the X-men Supreme fanfiction series.

I don’t have Apocalypse in the story just yet, but I do have a few familiar faces from X-men: Apocalypse taking on a major role. One in particular is Nightcrawler. While his story is basically a blank slate in X-men: Apocalypse, he’s already on a difficult journey in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Ever since the Family and Fiends arc where he first showed up, he’s been struggling to balance his life with the X-men and with his ailing girlfriend, Amanda Sefton. Then, in the Civilization No Longer Lost arc, that struggle gained a new complication when Amanda fell into a coma after her encounter with Selene and Sinister. While her spirit is still active, her current state is tenuous at best.

I’ve left this conflict unaddressed for a while, even as major arcs like Natural Disorder and Dark Legacy shook the foundations of this fanfiction series. There is a reason for that. I’ve had a specific plan in place for Amanda and Nightcrawler since I introduced them back in X-men Supreme Volume 2: War Powers. I can’t reveal yet where they are in this story, but the payoff is in sight and this issue is the next step towards that payoff. What it leads to will do more than merely shake foundations of X-men Supreme, but I can only tease why for now.

A big part of this next step involves Nightcrawler making a few difficult decisions. I’ve had him struggle with others keeping secrets and making decisions for him. In many ways, it’s part of being a mutant. Nobody decides to be a mutant, living in a world of fearful humans. Beyond just being a mutant, being young also means being in a world where other people make decisions for you all the time. Charles Xavier has tried to teach mutants how to make their own decisions and encourages them to make the right ones. Nightcrawler will have to put those teachings to good use here.

Amanda Sefton is under attack once more. Nightcrawler is still in a vulnerable state, trying to protect the woman he loves while he struggles with other unresolved issues involving the X-men. He still hasn’t confronted his mother after it was revealed in X-men Supreme Issue 120: Sinister Revelations that she is Rose, Wolverine’s former lover. He hasn’t confronted Rogue either about her recent struggles. This is a defining moment for Nightcrawler and one that will set him on a different path. Hopefully, this will tide Nightcrawler fans over until X-men: Apocalypse this theaters.

X-men Supreme Issue 135: Spirit Misguide

With so many X-men fans focused on the release of X-men: Apocalypse, I’m making it my mission to supplement the appetites of those fans with X-men Supreme. The state of the current X-men comics might make that difficult, given how many major X-men characters are dead, MIA, and/or sterilized. I know X-men Supreme cannot be on the same level as the official comics, but I still want to make this fanfiction series awesome to a point where X-men fans can see it as a genuine outlet. And a big part of ensuring that level of awesome is by receiving feedback. So for Nightcrawler fans and X-men fans and general, please take the time to review this issue or any other issue of X-men Supreme when you get a chance. Either contact me directly or post it directly in the issue. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

All-New X-men #9: Nuff Said!

Some things can never be overdone. Masturbation, chocolate, and boobs come to mind. Marvel seems to be making a concerted effort to add time travel to that list. They've already introduced yet another overly dystopian future in Apocalypse Wars with Extraordinary X-men. Then again, the present is pretty fucking dystopian already thanks to clouds of Inhuman farts so that's really not saying much. Now, All-New X-men is joining the shit storm with Apocalypse Wars. And wouldn't you know it? More time travel is about to enter the picture.

Ignore for a moment how time travel will never be on the same level as chocolate. Apocalypse Wars is a huge opportunity for one particular character, Kid Apocalypse, to finally show that he's not destined to be the genocidal asshole who tries to wipe out all life on Earth every other week. But that would mean he would never be played by Oscar Isaac so maybe he'll be conflicted. Kid Apocalypse has a chance to start kicking destiny in the balls in All-New X-men #9. I just have another excuse to review comics and get drunk. So I still win motherfucker.

What's one way of kicking destiny in the balls? How about a kick-ass party? That's how college frat guys do it, minus the hazing and lighting of farts. Why not try it with mutants destined to destroy the world?

As it just so happens, Kid Apocalypse is celebrating a birthday. Granted, the circumstances of his birth are fucked, but it's still an excuse to have a party and he's a teenager so the circumstances mean precisely dick. And despite being in a world where clouds of Inhuman farts are maiming and sterilizing mutants, there are still enough to meet up in the ruins of Utopia and have a kick-ass party. We even manage to see a few faces that were basically MIA even before Secret Wars, like Transonic, Shark Girl, and Broo. They even have Kid Gladiator being a DJ. That's as awesome and fucked up as it sounds.

So in terms of having a birthday party, this is as awesome as it can get without involving strippers. Even a kid destined to be a world-destroying menace can't help but have a good time.

Even O5 Cyclops, who is still on the mend after getting his ass kicked by Toad (not a joke by the way), shows up to celebrate. There are smiles all around. Everybody is supporting Kid Apocalypse. There's only one tiny reference to O5 Angel bitching and moaning about his relationship with X-23. So overall, the shit that made them whiny and annoying for much of this series is totally absent. It's more than refreshing. It's way fucking overdue.

And yet, Kid Apocalypse still can't help but brood. However, I give him somewhat of a pass. Sure, he'll later be associated with Oscar Isaac, but he's still kind of bothered by the idea that he grows up to be this genocidal maniac. There's some great inner monologue here, which Dennis Hopeless hasn't done enough of in this series. It offers great insight into what Kid Apocalypse is contemplating on his birthday as he gets one year closer to being that madman who will one day get his own X-men movie. I normally don't say this about characters destined to be assholes, but it's hard not to like him.

On the flip side, it's easy to hate O5 Beast. I still feel the urge to kick him in the dick every time I see him in a comic. At least this time, he's trying to do something productive. After a painfully bland filler story with him and Dr. Strange, he's decided to address one of those annoying plots that hasn't even been mentioned since Battle of the Atom. That's right. He's actually trying to figure out why the O5 X-men can't go back to their own time.

It's an important and meaningful shift for O5 Beast, who has spent too much time bitching and moaning on a level preparing him to be his douchier older self. Someone has to figure out this shit that kept the O5 X-men in the present. It might as well be a douche-bag like Hank McCoy, armed with the arrogance of youth and some lessons from Dr. Strange. Considering his older self stole time travel technology from Dr. Doom, I'd say he's in a slightly better place. Sure, he's failing so far, but he still has an adorable pet bamf. So I'll give him that.

After borrowing the pet bamf and leaving O5 Beast to start picking at this annoyingly lingering plot hole, Kid Apocalypse takes a quick trip to a simpler setting. He goes to a generic, small-time town in Kansas. It's basically the kind of town Ted Cruz loved to campaign in, exploiting the politics of those who are poorly educated and dumbed down by religious indoctrination. Sure, he gets some shit there from some redneck types who hate mutants. But these assholes probably do the same Mexicans, Asians, and anyone else Mel Gibson ever ranted about. So it's all relative.

To his credit, Kid Apocalypse doesn't use this as an excuse to go into his first genocidal rage. I'm sure he's saving that for his 21st birthday. But more internal monologue offers more insight. Hopeless really shines here, fleshing him out while referencing the events of Uncanny X-Force. I'm still reluctant to like Kid Apocalypse, but damn it if Hopeless isn't making that difficult.

What makes him so likable is that he knows that he's destined to be a genocidal psychopath with an annoying resemblance to Ivan Ooze. He also knows that the memories he has of most of his life are all implanted lies, courtesy of Fantomex. He knows all of this, but he still makes a genuine effort to not be a total asshole. He could easily use this as an excuse to be a total dick, but he doesn't. He still makes an effort to be better. Not a lot of characters do that and some go out of their way to just be assholes.

Looking at you, Hope fucking Summers!

Kid Apocalypse arrives back on Utopia just as the party is winding down. He has a nice moment with Idie. She says they're all about to watch a birthday movie, probably American Pie or the Hangover. He's 16, remember? But he opts to check in with O5 Beast again so he can return his pet bamf. That's when he demonstrates why teenagers shouldn't be in close proximity to obscenely destructive shit.

Remember that magic mask that Dr. Strange gave O5 Beast? Well if you do, you have my sympathy because it means you had to read that shitty filler story in the previous issue. You didn't, don't bother and don't worry. All you need to know is Kid Apocalypse tries it on, it magically gets O5 Beast's time travel shit to work, and they're transported back into the past. Why? It's magic. It doesn't need to make sense. Ask Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.

So where in the timeline do they end up? There are any number of shitty time periods they could've gone. Any that don't have indoor plumbing and bowls made out of lead are bad enough. But since O5 Beast has a fuckton of bad karma working against him, they land in Ancient Egypt. And not just the whip-cracking, Charlton Heston version of Egypt either. They arrive in the era of the Sandstormers, the brutally violent nomadic tribe that helped turn the first mutant into Apocalypse. They're basically a less polite version of a Mexican drug cartel. So yeah, this is what Apocalypse grew up around. Who wouldn't become a genocidal madman in that environment?

O5 Beast and Kid Apocalypse arrive just in time to see the Sandstormers executing some random guy who probably just looked at them cross-eyed. That or this is basically they're only form of entertainment since internet porn and video games are still a few thousand years off. The Sandstormers greet their arrival with the same warmth as I would greet anyone who tries to steal my beer and piss on my lawn. They might even see this as a bonus. They were just going to execute a guy and get drunk. Now they have two more people to execute. It's like the ancient equivalent of finding an extra slice of pizza.

We get some intense, well-designed action scenes, courtesy of Mark Bagley. These aren't killer robots. These aren't drunk Toads either. These are the fucking Sandstormers. It's chaotic, but intense. It's very much reflective of the world Apocalypse came from. In that chaos, Kid Apocalypse manages to slip away with one of the younger Sandstormers who seems to have a problem with just executing people for shits and giggles. I guess that's just an obligatory statement that not everyone from the past was a blood-thirsty savage. I'm sure the politically correct crowd demanded this kind disclaimer.

But the important outcome in this fight is that O5 Beast and Kid Apocalypse get separated in the chaos. They each do their part to get away. Kid Apocalypse used to hang out with Fantomex and Deadpool so naturally, he has the edge. O5 Beast, however, only has experience beating up Toad, Blob, and Unus the Untouchable. Not saying he's a pushover, but against the Sandstormers he might as well be kitten fighting a shark.

O5 Beast manages to get his ass captured. Kid Apocalypse and his new best friend manage to get to a nearby settlement. Here, Kid Apocalypse demonstrates that having horrible influences like Fantomex and Deadpool does have its perks. He's able to kick a little ass and escape the Sandstormers. Sure, he doesn't get to shoot or maim anyone, which I'm sure would disappoint Fantomex. But he's able to defend himself. That's something most teenagers not armed with baseball bats can't do. That puts Kid Apocalypse well above most kids in his age bracket. It also makes him more respectable than 95 percent of 16-year-old boys I know. Again, I'm trying not to get too attached to Kid Apocalypse, but Dennis Hopeless keeps making that difficult.

This is where the timeline might just gain a new torn asshole. Remember that new friend Kid Apocalypse made from the Sandstormers? Well, it turns out it's him. More accurately, it's a distant past version of him. Sure, he's still kind of creepy as fuck and nowhere near as handsome as Oscar Issac is on an average day, but his presence is a big fucking deal. He's now face-to-face with his past self. He has a chance to definitely change his future as a genocidal madman. I'm sure he's tempted, but I hope he takes into account how badly the O5 X-men have failed. He should know better than most the dangers of tearing the timeline a new asshole, but then again he's 16. His ability to be that responsible and think that far ahead is limited. it awesome?

Not going to lie. I've approached Apocalypse Wars the same way I approach my taxes. It's sort of unavoidable, this major event that Marvel is forcing itself to do so they can mask just how badly they're fucking every mutant-related character not named Deadpool. But if I'm going to still not lie, this is a damn good issue. And yeah, I say that with a straight face. This series, which is more hit-or-miss than the NFL draft at times, actually manages to have heart, sincerity, and character drama for all the right reasons. I don't get that kind of pleasant surprise while doing my taxes.

Sure, time travel bullshit is still confusing as fuck and X-men overdo it compulsively masturbating monkey/meth head. It's still somewhat refreshing to see this series finally address some of the unanswered questions from X-men: Battle of the Atom while giving Kid Apocalypse a bit more depth. It might be too late for Oscar Isaac make use of it, but explores elements of Apocalypse that the X-men haven't explored before. And they actually do it well so I can say with a semi-sober tone that this actually works. It's a time travel and Apocalypse story that works.

Take note, Bryan Singer! If the reviews for X-men: Apocalypse are any indication, you're going to need it.

Final Score: 9 out of 10