Wednesday, August 31, 2016

X-men 92 #6: Nuff Said!

Being an X-men fan sucks these days. Being without the internet sucks even more. So those X-men fans from the 90s, also known as the golden era of X-men, are fucked either way. We just can't win. Thanks to shitty movie rights deals, we're stuck in a state where the best the X-men have to offer is being butt-fucked by an Inhuman-tipped dick and it'll stay that way until Fox's lawyers get too drunk or something.

In the meantime, we still have X-men 92 to remind us that it didn't always suck this bad. X-men 92 has characters that are alive. It has little to no time-displaced X-men. It also has lovable, less whiny versions of the characters we know and love. Chad Bowers and Chris Sims taught us to love Cyclops and Jean Grey again in X-men 92 #5. Now, they're here to help us love other awesome shit from the 90s in X-men 92 #6. On top of that, we don't have to enjoy it with a shitty 56k modem. It really is the best of both worlds.

No matter what world you're in, it can only be a bit safer and a bit more awesome with Abigail Brand watching over it with SWORD. Turns out, she exists in the X-men 92 world. She even dresses like an extra in an old Janet Jackson video for good measure. In any decade, that should make anyone feel safer and hornier.

It also turns out that regardless of the decade or era, Abigail Brand is still Abigail Brand. That means she's still a hardcore, ball-busting bitch who will shoot someone in the dick if it protects Earth against alien threats. As it just so happens, an alien ship comes flying through, thinking it's a good idea to visit Earth without getting Abigail Brand's permission first. Don't know if that alien has a dick, but he/she/it will probably not keep it intact for much longer.

The destination of that alien ship? Where the fuck else? It's heading to Westchester and as it just so happens, it's in the middle of a concert called Lilapalooza. It sounds so 90s that it couldn't be more 90s without a mullet and parachute pants. The concert, in this case, is intended to be a human/mutant peace concert. Given how Woodstock 99 turned out, the X-men are taking a chance. They're also the ones providing security so anyone who thinks it's a good idea to set fire to a stage has to deal with Wolverine and Bishop. You literally can't get better concert security than that without hiring the Hells Angels on crack.

It's a fun, festive scene. Lila Cheney is an intergalactic pop star who comes from an era where the name Cheney doesn't immediately conjure images of waterboarding, pre-emptive wars, or Sith Lord level evil. She's singing songs that aren't about breaking shit and ex-boyfriends. The X-men aren't just keeping peoples' asses in line. They're enjoying the show while busting up wannabe groupies from sneaking backstage. Storm is even friends with Lila, making for nice moments that don't involve her blaming Cyclops for all the terrible shit in the world. Beats the shit out of getting sterilized and shot at by killer robots.

These are good times at a fucking rock concert where people aren't busy tweeting about it 85 percent of the time. That begs the question. Where the fuck is Jubilee? This is the kind of stuff that gives teenage girl's orgasmic-induced seizures in the 90s. Well, she's still kind of grounded and this is an era where that didn't just mean taking away your cell phone for a few days.

It turns out Xavier didn't appreciate her breaking curfew to go on a date with Chamber and getting turned into a fucking vampire as a result. Also, she kind of tried to eat her fellow students so that's kind of hard to overlook. Considering she just gets grounded, I'd say that's as reasonable as Charles Xavier can be in an era where changing the wifi password is considered child abuse. It also ensures she misses the concert so she's understandably pissed, but has no one to blame but herself. This will teach her to go out and enjoy being a teenager in an era before dick pics and Tinder!

Everything seems to be going well at the concert. Nobody is starting any fires. Nobody is getting their skull crushed in a mosh pit. Wolverine and Bishop even find time to talk about the future somewhat. Then again, nobody is sterilized by giant fart clouds from racist xenophobic slave-owners in Bishop's future so how apocalyptic can it really be at this point? Either way, this present is far more hopeful and uplifting.

It only starts to go to shit when that alien ship from earlier arrives. Considering that Woodstock 99 ended with fires, riots, and overpriced burritos, I'd say this is still more successful. The concert-goers probably just think this is part of the show or are too damn high from that crack they smoked. Remember, this is the 90s. Everyone still believes weed is evil and crack is cheaper.

At first, Lily tries to convince the audience that it's part of the show and/or a side-effect of crack. She's actually scared shitless because it turns out that, despite being an intergalactic pop star, there are still a few bounty hunters who want to kill her. If this is what happens to pop stars with too much power, then I worry for Taylor Swift's safety.

The bounty hunter in question is Death's Head, a villain that has so many over-the-top 90s features that he might as well have come out of an over-budget Michael Jackson music video. Sure, he looks like Darth Vader fucked a Transformer, but he's here to attack a cute pop star trying to foster peace at a rock concert. Evil like that just cannot stand.

The X-men, acting as security, are immediately inclined to kick Death's Head's ass. They have Wolverine, Bishop, and Rogue to throw at this guy. Pretty sure the staff at Woodstock 99 had pepper spray, night sticks, and used condoms. This is a much fairer fight is what I'm saying and this time, nobody can blame the destruction on shitty Limp Bizkit songs.

Unfortunately, the fight that unfolds doesn't last very long. Rogue gets in a few shots. Wolverine and Bishop get pissed off while concert-goers flee in terror and not because water costs 10 bucks. That's about it though. The fighting gets cut off because Abigail Brand shows up. While it's usually disappointing when an awesome battle gets cut off, Abigail Brand showing up often gives a damn good excuse so I can't be too disappointed.

Brand's presence in this fight means it's probably going to be over in time for an encore. That's when we get an unexpected complications thrown into the mix. It turns out, the X-men didn't do quite as good a job at keeping wannabe groupies/roadies out. One manages to slip through and he happens to be Fabian Cortez. Why is this a big fucking deal? He's one of the assholes who made up the wannbe Inner Circle that unleashed Alpha Red on the X-men a few issues back. Now, he's there to fuck with the X-men in an entirely different way.

This involves him using his powers to overload Lila Cheney's teleportation powers, which causes her to transport the X-men far and away from the cheering crowds who probably paid way too much for their tickets. Why would he do something like that? He's an asshole who probably got kicked out of a Guns n' Roses concert. Then again, does he really need a reason? He already helped unleash a fucking vampire against the X-men. Now, he's fucking with them in a whole new way. As long as it doesn't involve vampires, it shows he's making a genuine effort.

Turns out Cortez actually does have more imagination than a Power Rangers villain. The X-men, Lila, Brand, and Death's Head end up teleporting way the fuck away from Earth. They're not on Earth anymore. Cortez put Lila's powers into overdrive and like a crack head in withdraw, she's in no condition to take them back. At the very least, they're away from innocent concert-goers. That means Abigail Brand can kick Death Head's ass so he can't fuck their day up any more than it already is. I'd say it's a battle that's overly rushed, but it's Abigail Brand versus an ugly ass alien. I'm shocked it lasted as long as it did.

That takes care of one alien asshole. There's just one much bigger problem. This planet that Cortez sent them too has something that's way worse than some alien bounty hunter who tries way too fucking hard to be more awesome than Boba Fett. It's actually a planet overrun by the Brood. That's right. The horrific, flesh-eating aliens from the 90s who aren't from Independence Day are back and they've got a fresh plate of X-men to devour. It's a really shitty situation, but I argue it still beats being stuck on a planet where mutants are sterilized and racist xenophobic slave-owners are considered superheroes. it awesome?

Abigail Brand shows up and kicks ass. The X-men go to a rock concert that doesn't involve 95 percent of the audience holding their phones up and recording shitty-quality video. Aliens show up and start blowing shit up. If you can't find entertainment value in at least one of those things, then adjust your meds or get to a fucking emergency room because you're half-way towards a coma.

It's fun. It's entertaining. It has awesome, endearing characters. It's actually fun to read like a comic book should be. These days, comics that don't have Squirrel Girl or Kamala Khan are just a round of bad makeup away from going all emo goth. X-men comics, especially, have become thinly veiled Prozac commercials so X-men 92 #6 is so refreshing in that it reminds us of a time when comics were actually fun. What a fucking concept, right?

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, August 26, 2016

Deriving Novelty from the Inane: Action Comics #962

The following is my review of Action Comics #962, which was posted on

When is it okay to put the proverbial genie back in the bottle? Is it even possible to accomplish without destroying the bottle and everything within a five-mile radius? That radius may be much wider when Superman is involved. It may also involve more than one bottle. It sounds confusing and it certainly is. It's a major reason why the events of DC: Rebirth are affecting Superman more than most, but not because of anything Doomsday or Lex Luthor are doing.

DC: Rebirth decides with little to no depth that the genie needs to go back in the bottle. Superman needs to go back to his pre-Flashpoint method of operation. That means every meaningful change from the New 52 has to be nullified, rendered meaningless and pointless in the grand scheme of things. It gives the impression that the narrative of Superman and Action Comics is inherently shallow. It's not that nothing really happens. It's that nothing can happen that has any lasting impact on Superman.

Dan Jurgens is tasked with crafting a meaningful story with this narrative in the first post-Rebirth arc of Action Comics. However, the meaning is often lost in the confusion of all the contrivances attempting to purge New 52 impacts and the all-too familiar clashes with Doomsday. It can't acknowledge that Superman fought Doomsday on multiple occasions during the New 52 era. It can't acknowledge any dramatic entanglements that may or may not have occurred in that era either. It doesn't just limit the story. It flat out ignores the context.

If there is a strength within this confusion, it's Jurgens' efforts to re-frame Superman's story as a husband and father. Action Comics #962 tries to use this strength to complete an arc that relies too much on contrivances and disaster porn. It isn't enough to circumvent the flaws that inevitably emerge when putting Superman back into the pre-Flashpoint bottle, but it does keep the story from falling flat.

Any battle involving Superman and Doomsday has to be destructive. It has to be epic. This is the creature that actually killed Superman at one point. It can't be ended by one punch or by some secret gadget in Batman's utility belt. There has to be destruction, danger, and desperation every step of the way. Jurgens definitely goes the extra distance in capturing these elements. Stephen Segovia's artwork goes just as far in capturing the visuals.

Things blow up. Mountains crumble. The laws of physics are strained in ways that would make Einstein cringe. The aesthetics are definitely there. They help distract from the fact that this is a battle we've seen before. It's a battle that doesn't bring anything that new to the table. Other than Superman having a wife and son, there isn't much in this battle that hasn't played out before. It feels slightly more novel than seeing Batman punch the Joker again, but not by much.

Beneath the aesthetics though, there are still flaws. There's still a sense that this story has to ignore, negate, or undermine the stories that came before it in order to function. The substance of a battle between Superman and Doomsday may check all the right boxes, but the circumstances of that battle have too many blanks and details have some distressing implications.

While the outcome of the battle is never in question, the effects it reveals along the way are telling. It basically pulls back the curtain and shows the actual process of putting Superman's various genies back in the bottle. The revelation of his secret identity is undermined. His romantic history with Wonder Woman is flat out ignored. Lex Luthor's efforts at being a superhero come into question in a way that's fairly predictable. Ignoring circumstances may work with the Joker, but it doesn't work with Superman.

There's little mystery. There's tension. The purpose and goal of this new era of Action Comics is clear even if it's stated indirectly. Superman is going back to the way he was before the Flashpoint reboot. The only difference now is that he has a kid. That may keep the story from feeling regressive, but it still comes off as contrived.

That said, Jurgens manages to make the most of Jon's presence. His personality and youthful charisma add some much-needed novelty to the story. He also creates an extra dimension of drama with Superman. Him being a family man on top of being a superhero helps add some new dynamics to battles that have played out before. He's able to make those dynamics work in Action Comics #962. Peter Parker would be wise to take note.

DC: Rebirth, as a concept, works because it doesn't try too hard to be edgy or modern anymore. After years of trying too hard to make every character more like Batman, this initiative attempts to re-focus on the basics. The approach works when it happens organically and naturally with the characters. With Action Comics and the Superman comics as a whole, there's too much force behind the effort. Superman defines himself by being careful with his vast powers. It's a lesson that DC Comics would be wise to heed.

In this case, putting the genie back in the bottle causes the bottle to crack and fracture. At the very least, Action Comics #962 keeps it from shattering completely. There are one too many predictable plot lines, but there are also new and interesting dynamics emerging within the story. It doesn't prevent some parts of that story from being inane at times, but it still finds a way capture the heart of what makes Superman so iconic.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

X-men Supreme Issue #140: Outer Limits Part 4 is LIVE!

As mutants, the X-men are a product of evolution. Being a product of evolution means adapting to new conditions. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series has forced them to adapt in a great many ways to say the least. First, they had to adapt to their identities being revealed to the public. Later, they adapted to an uprising on Genosha that created the first mutant nation. After that, they had to adapt to Magneto taking over Genosha, only to be driven mad by the Cambrian. The world of X-men Supreme is constantly changing, bringing new challenges and hardships. With Outer Limits, the X-men’s ability to adapt will be pushed even further.

This process began in X-men Supreme Issue 46: Paradise Mystery. It took a major step when Jean Grey gained the power of the Phoenix Force during the Phoenix Saga. Then, the stage was set after the Starcrossed arc when Lilandra Neramani learned of her alien heritage and took on a bold new role as leader of the rebellion against her tyrannical half-brother, D’ken. The cosmic elements of X-men Supreme push the X-men to adapt in some very profound ways. Now that they’re ready to attack D’ken, they can only hope that these ways are sufficient.

That said, not every aspect of this cosmic conflict is a daunting challenge. During the course of the Outer Limits arc, an ailing Charles Xavier caught up with his X-men once more. When this arc began, he was still recovering from a crippling addiction to pain pills that nearly got his X-men killed during their first battle against the Mutant Liberation Front. Now, thanks to Shi’ar technology, he is completely healed and can walk again. Make no mistake. This is a big change for the X-men and it will have lasting implications for X-men Supreme.

Throughout the history of the X-men comics, Charles Xavier’s paralysis has been a plot in constant flux. His physical limitations have historically been a big part of the X-men mythos. In recent years, that component fell to the wayside as he regained the use of his legs. For the past decade or so, his paralysis has become somewhat of an afterthought, even after his death. I always felt that this concept warranted greater exploration. So I intend to make a much bigger deal of it in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series.

However, before Charles Xavier and the X-men can confront these challenges, they must first confront D’ken. It won’t make a difference if Xavier can use his legs again if D’ken is able to tap the power of the M’krann Crystal. His intentions are as bold as they are horrific. He wants to manipulate the minds of every sentient creature in the universe and he’s willing to inflict unspeakable suffering on his own people in order to achieve this. As it stands, the X-men, Lilandra, the Starjammers, and their Shi’ar allies are their only hope of stopping him.

The time has come for the X-men to confront the tyrant that has plagued the Shi’ar for so long. Nothing less than every mind in the universe is at stake. It is as daunting a challenge as the X-men have ever faced. It is, without a doubt, the most important battle the X-men have faced to date in X-men Supreme. This is a battle that X-men fans will not want to miss. Expect a battle like no other as the X-men fight to save the collective minds of a universe.

X-men Supreme Issue 140: Outer Limits Part 4

This kind of cosmic battle brings out the best in X-men. It also presents unique challenges for X-men Supreme. The sci-fi elements of X-men require a different approach compared to those that focus on the human/mutant conflict. It’s a challenge, finding the right balance between all these elements. I want this fanfiction series to capture everything that makes the X-men mythos so awesome. That’s why it’s so vital that I continue to get feedback on my work. I know I say this with every issue, but I mean every word of it. The feedback I get helps make X-men Supreme more awesome. Either post your comments in the issue or contact me directly. I’m always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Extraordinary X-men #13: Nuff Said!

How fucked are you when your sanctuary is infested by demons? The answer to that question is the primary theme of Extraordinary X-men. Mutants go from having a large, peaceful protest in the middle of DC to being safer among demons than they are among humans. That's a whole new level of fucked that few things outside Japanese anime porn can match. They still blame Cyclops, but oddly ignore the fact that the Inhumans aren't doing jack shit about the big fucking fart cloud that's killing them. I'm guessing they know that demons are less menacing than Disney lawyers at this point.

As fucked as they are, there comes a point where setting up shop in a demon-infested realm is going to leave the X-men too fucked to function. They barely functioned enough to survive another trip to another dystopian future involving Apocalypse. How can they expect to survive in a domain where demons pop up more often than annoying cat videos? Extraordinary X-men #13 sets the stage for the X-men to get just a little more fucked. At this point, does it really matter? I'm hoping a non-sober mind like mine can make that determination.

That said, I think it's safe to assume that the mind of a demon-loving teenage girl isn't inherently sober. It's just not something anyone who values the integrity of their asshole to say out loud. To be fair, Magik has been more collected and coherent in recent months. Since befriending a fellow demon-lover in Sapna, she's kind of mellowed somewhat, albeit only to the extent that a demon-loving teenage girl can. I still think she needs some better weed, but it has made her less overtly evil compared to recent years. That or this is just the natural byproduct of not hanging out with Emma Frost quite as much.

The problem is that during Apocalypse Wars, Sapna disappears for reasons that aren't entirely clear to a non-sober mind. Since Magik isn't eager to hang out with Emma Frost again, she goes looking for her. She even finds a portal and Sapna's pet demon, Boogers. I'm usually reluctant to root for demon-loving teenage girls, but Jeff Lemire makes it pretty damn easy here. How can you not root for a girl a demon named Boogers? It's like rooting against breast implants and puppies.

While Magik is taking care of her personal shit, the rest of the X-men have their own shit to deal with. The aftermath of Apocalypse Wars actually has an impact here. Let me pause for a second to acknowledge why that's a big fucking deal. Keep in mind, the X-men are in this shit storm because they got massively screwed off-panel after Secret Wars. So the concept that the aftermath of a major event helps build the next story feels pretty damn novel when it really shouldn't. Yeah, that's where we are with X-men comics these days, but I digress.

Apocalypse Wars may be over, but Apocalypse still did some pretty nasty shit. He turned Colossus into a horseman and now he's missing. That lead the team to take the old, wrinkly version of Apocalypse from the 30th century back to the past in hopes that he'll help undo the shit he did to Colossus. Plus, they already have Old Man Logan on their team and he's worked out well. I guess they figure getting another grumpy old fuck from a future can only help. At a time when prominent X-men are either dead or time-displaced, I can't argue with that logic.

As they're looking for ways to make Apocalypse undo the shit he did to Colossus, Nightcrawler and Iceman are taking the more direct approach. They're out in the non-demon world that's dominated by racist xenophobic slave-owners and the Marvel Universe that supports them. They're looking for Colossus and they're focusing on Clan Akkaba, who have long had a boner for all things Apocalypse. They probably could enlist help from the Avengers, but they're probably busy sucking the dicks of every racist xenophobic slave owners on Attilan.

This ends up being a surprisingly heated fight, especially from Nightcrawler. He's still pretty fucked up after the first arc. He takes it out on Clan Akkaba here. Let's face it, there are far less healthy ways he could deal with his shit. Sure, Iceman keeps him from going full Wolverine berserker rage, but it's refreshing to see Nightcrawler kick some ass. It also is an indirect hint of sorts that he's not totally in line with Storm's way of doing things, which plays out in Civil War II. Again, for a team that gets fucked over off-panel a lot lately, this kind of coherence is pretty damn refreshing.

Kicking the asses of Apocalypse worshipers is entertaining enough. There are still some demon asses to kick as well. This is where Storm meets up with Magik to get in on the action. It even leads to a nice little moment of sorts where Storm makes clear that she's willing to help even the demon-loving members of her team. That's why she's so respected by X-men, Avengers, and Wakandan kings. Helping a fellow X-men search for their demon-loving protege? It probably beats hearing whiny teenagers bitch about the lack of wifi in Limbo.

She follows Magik into the portal she finds with Sapna's pet, Boogers. Having already ventured into an Apocalyptic future, jumping through demonic realms must seem downright boring. It makes for some great visuals. A bag of weed isn't even necessary to enjoy them, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

They eventually show up in an apocalyptic version of London, which I imagine isn't much different from how London is during rush hour these days. They don't find Sapna, but they do find a bunch of John Constantine wannabes and assorted demon creatures. Their first instinct, naturally, is to attack the beautiful women. Like angry Twitter trolls, they don't need a reason. They don't seem to know anything about Sapna, which kind of stalls the plot, but it means more Storm and Magik fighting demons. Who can't get behind that? Who, I ask?

We then find out there may be another reason why Storm decided to fight demons rather than stick around X-Haven. While fixing Cerebro and dealing with the injured students from Apocalypse Wars, Old Man Logan and Forge get into a heated dick-measuring contest. It doesn't involve demons or Apocalypse worshipers, but it's still pretty damn relevant.

Remember, these are two men who have either seen Storm naked or are inclined to want to see her naked. Storm did share a few meaningful moments with Old Man Logan earlier in this series. She has also made it clear that her panties are still quite dry around Forge. So these two do have a reason to resent each other. They don't say it outright, but it's pretty damn obvious. I would say it's petty, but we're talking about seeing Storm naked here. I'd say the stakes are pretty damn high. Does it contribute much to the story? Fuck no. Is it still entertaining and relevant? Fuck yes. So it balances out.

There are more relevant battles going on, although the stakes don't involve a naked Storm so their importance is debatable. Iceman and Nightcrawler attack another Clan Akkaba stronghold in Egypt. That goes about as well as a vacation to Afghanistan. The action here is a bit more muted. Then again, it doesn't involve who gets to see Storm naked, so that's to be expected. Nightcrawler doesn't get to go berserker this time, but only because they find some actual leads on Colossus. Not sure which is better for Nightcrawler's mental health, but it moves the story along.

It's a story that has a lot of moving pieces now. We've got Storm and Magik fighting demons in their search for Sapna. We have Nightcrawler and Iceman fighting Clan Akkaba in their search for Colossus. We have Forge and Old Man Logan wanting to strangle each other over who gets to see Storm naked. It's a little chaotic, but each fight has its own appeal. Like different flavors of vodka or different strands of weed, they each have something to offer. The X-men have always been good at providing a variety of awesome. It's just one of the many things that make them more appealing than any team of racist xenophobic slave-owners.

Another thing the X-men are good at providing, sometimes to an annoying degree, are ominous hints about shitty futures. Having just gotten back from one in Apocalypse Wars, that's the last thing the X-men need, other than more clones or time travelers. This time, however, the ominous hints are a bit more concise. It turns out Clan Akkaba read Apocalypse Wars too. They seem to be aware of the apocalyptic shit that's going to unfold. Some of that shit involves more dead X-men. So long as they get the dignity of dying on-panel, they can't be too disappointed. They sure as shit shouldn't be surprised either. Another apocalyptic future is basically just another Monday for the X-men these days. it awesome?

Well, there are some interesting and semi-interesting things going on here. There is a genuine aftermath to Apocalypse Wars and it isn't cast aside like a used condom in a whore house. That may not sound like much, but at a time when iconic characters killed killed off-panel, that's a bit more important these days. There are a few personal moments as well. Magik actually shows some emotion that doesn't just involve getting horny around demons. So that's a nice touch. Old Man Logan and Forge are on the brink of strangling each other over who gets to see Storm naked. That definitely has some entertainment value as well. Is it enough though?

Well, as most X-men fans can attest since Secret Wars, the bar is pretty fucking low right now. They're in a world where racist xenophobic slave-owners get preferential treatment. We can't expect X-men comics to be as thorough or as epic as they once were. If we get a story that's concise, diverse, and exciting, we need to embrace it. The fact that nobody else gets sterilized in this issue is a victory in and of itself. Extraordinary X-men #13 may only make your panties half-wet, but that's what we have to work with these days. When shit is this bleak, you make a shit sandwich and you enjoy it for what it is.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Requiem For The Green Goliath: Civil War II: The Fallen #1

The following is my review of Civil War II: The Fallen #1, which was posted on

What makes a defining moment so defining has little to do with the immediate impact it has on a story. That impact may be intense and memorable by every objective measure, but it's often just a prelude to the much larger conflicts that it inspires. Whether it's Doomsday killing Superman, the Joker crippling Barbara Gordon, or Tony Stark taking his first shot of tequila, these moments only become defining when that larger conflict takes shape.

Without question, the death of Bruce Banner is the defining moment for Civil War II. The impact of this moment creates the catalyst for the real meat of the story. After this moment, the lines are drawn, the divisions are set, and the hearts of Marvel's greatest heroes are pulled in opposite directions. It's the last straw for Tony Stark. It's that painful moment of clarity that only admitted alcoholics can appreciate.

There's no question that the death of the Hulk lit the match that ignited the powder keg that is Civil War II. However, in the midst of this raging inferno, it's easy to overlook the personal impact of the Hulk's death. Bruce Banner dies surrounded by friends and former teammates who knew him as more than just the oversized brute with anger-management issues.

That sentiment is understandably sidelined by the larger conflict in Civil War II, but Greg Pak and Mark Bagley attempt to explore that sentiment in Civil War II: The Fallen #1. That sentiment proves vital to delivering the dramatic impact of the Bruce Banner's death. It takes a step back from the legal, philosophical, and ethical debate surrounding proactive punishment and focuses solely on the emotions surrounding those closest to Hulk and Bruce Banner. There's nothing that'll overwhelm a message board here. There's just raw, genuine drama surrounding the death of a beloved friend.

There are no monster battles. There are no alien invasions. There are no homages to Bill Bixby walking solemnly down a highway. Civil War II: The Fallen #1 deals solely with the reactions among Bruce Banner's friends and family. Those reactions are not divorced from the larger context of Civil War II, but they are secondary. The primary focused here is the mixed legacy the Hulk leaves behind.

The bitter part of that mixture plays out at Bruce Banner's funeral. Whereas Bruce's friends and fellow heroes are on hand to honor his memory, there are plenty of protesters as well who still condemn the Hulk in death. This is an important context to include because it highlights the unique dimensions of the Hulk. It's a big part of what makes him unique among heroes. Plenty of heroes have green skin and big muscles. Few deal with the kinds of complications that the Hulk deals with, even when he isn't angry.

It's easy to forget that the Hulk's rampages can be pretty destructive. Given the enemies he deals with, his battles incur more collateral damage than most. In a world that includes shape-shifting aliens, uncontrollable mutant powers, and helicarrier that crash every other week, that's saying something. Unlike those destructive elements though, the Hulk is a singular face on which people can focus their blame. As any minority, real or fictional, can attest, it doesn't take much blame to inspire outrage.

Despite this outrage, Bruce Banner spends his life trying to make the Hulk a force for good. Those are the efforts that his friends and family honor. Throughout Civil War II: The Fallen #1, the darker parts of his legacy aren't ignored. Instead, they are seen in context, which isn't easy to do with a rampaging monster. It's a testament to Banner's efforts and it nicely highlights the sentiment of every character involved.

However, the funeral of Bruce Banner isn't what gives Civil War II: The Fallen #1 the bulk of its dramatic weight. It's the living will that Bruce shares with his friends and family after death that evoke the most emotion. It doesn't just involve his assets, his work, or his acknowledgement that his anger management skills had room for improvement. It involves creating a legacy that appropriately embodies the impact of the Hulk. Naturally, it has to do with anger.

It all comes back to anger and how to deal with it. For most people, including Hulk's own friends and family, dealing with anger doesn't result in the same consequences or collateral damage as him. As a result, he has to work harder than most. That means he has to master anger management techniques that cannot be found in self-help books or overpriced seminars. His efforts to share this mastery, as imperfect it may be, acts as his greatest legacy as the Hulk.

It's fitting in so many ways. How many problems in the real world and comic book world could be solved if people just managed their anger better? How many battles would that avoid? How many buildings would go un-smashed? It's the best legacy that Bruce Banner could've left. However, it resonates with some more than others.

As fitting and heartfelt as Bruce Banner's final testament may be, there are those who need more than better anger management skills. Amadeus Cho, who Pak is developing in Totally Awesome Hulk, does not take time to grieve like so many of Hulk's friends. For him, the sentiment in Civil War II: The Fallen #1 is hollow at best. He sees what happened to Bruce Banner as an injustice and that just makes him too angry.

Cho's reaction, as well as the reaction of others like General Ross, are somewhat muted at times. There are some inconsistencies in the narrative and with certain characterizations, but the underlying sentiment is spot on. The tone in Civil War II: The Fallen #1 is solemn, but appropriate. Pak and Bagley craft a fitting, heartfelt sendoff to the Green Goliath. For once, anger takes a back seat to a Hulk story and it works, creating far less collateral damage in the process.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, August 19, 2016

X-men Supreme Issue #140: Outer Limits Part 4 PREVIEW!

It’s another cosmic crisis in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. The Shi’ar, D’ken, Lilandra, the Phoenix Force, and the Starjammers are front and center. The X-men, as is often the case, are caught in the middle of some cosmic crossfire. This comes at a time when Charles Xavier is ailing, Jean Grey is undergoing more transformations with the Phoenix Force, and Cyclops just discovers that his father is still alive. It’s a lot for any crisis, let alone one with a cosmic scope. It’s hard enough when the X-men have to save a world that hates and fears them. Now, they have to save an entire universe.

Cosmic conflicts are a big part of the X-men’s mythos. Early on in X-men Supreme, I briefly debated on whether I should even bring in cosmic elements like the Shi’ar. That debate didn’t last long. I’ve been reading X-men comics long enough to understand that you can’t capture the full scope of X-men without these cosmic elements. It still took me a while to bring them into the picture. X-men Supreme Issue 46: Paradise Mystery was the first and now it seems so long ago. In Outer Limits, the X-men find themselves in the middle of an interstellar war with the Shi’ar and they’re tyrannical emperor, D’ken.

That war has already brought a lot of upheavals to the X-men. That’s to say nothing about the impact their unexpected space adventure had back on Earth. They left abruptly from Genosha, leaving General Grimshaw and Wanda Maximoff understandably upset and confused. They’ll have to deal with that situation eventually. First, they need to make sure the universe as they know it is still intact.

That’s easier said than done when Emperor D’ken seems intent on killing anyone and anything he has to in order to get what he wants. So what exactly does he want? Why is he butchering his own people? Why is he willing to accept help from someone like Mastermind? Well, there is a reason for that and it’s a reason you won’t find outside the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. I don’t like villains that have no motivation or reason for their behavior. Whether it’s Magneto or Sinister or Cameron Hodge, I’ve always tried to create some context for these characters. With D’ken it’s no different, but it will be challenging.

D’ken is one of those X-men characters that never got a lot of depth. For the most part, he was just a villain that gave the X-men a cosmic level threat to deal with. He’s definitely a cosmic level threat in this fanfiction series, but for very different reasons. The comics and cartoons can only do so much. X-men Supreme can do more. I want to do more. That’s how I intend to make this fanfiction series awesome. It goes beyond his rivalry with Lilandra or the power of the Phoenix Force. There’s a bigger story at work here and it’s going to be an important component of the Outer Limits arc. As always, I’ve prepared a preview that should give a hint as to just how big this story is going to be.

“We’re here, D’ken! I hope you’re as pissed as I am!” yelled a determined Corsair.

“For heaven’s sake, at least try and keep it steady!” shouted Lilandra from the passenger area, “Let’s not do my brother any favors!”

“Sorry Empress, but not this time. If this is D’ken’s endgame, I’m not about to play it safe.”

“Oye, as if my dream of being an astronaut wasn’t tainted enough,” groaned Iceman.

The Starjammer arrived in hostile surroundings just like before. Having been transported to the Shi’ar home world by the Phoenix Force, they caught the Imperial Forces completely by surprise. The massive presence of the Phoenix Force was enough to strike fear even in D’ken’s most hardened forces. Their planetary defenses weren’t even online when Squadron XB-7 began their attack on the palace.

Once they arrived, it didn’t take long for the Imperial Defense Force to strike back. The system was already on high alert. When they arrived over Chandilar, they passed by a series of patrol crafts. Corsair wasted no time taking them out with the ship’s lasers. A number of them broke off and started evasive attacks. Corsair quickly maneuvered the Starjammer around to get a better angle. This caused plenty of discomfort within the ship. It also scrambled the interceptors so that Squadron XB-7 could start taking them out.

“May the strength of the Shi’ar guide our wings!”

This was the primary battle cry that echoed through the Starjammer’s communication systems. Professor Xavier and Beast monitored the attack from a holographic computer located in front of their seats. It showed their position in relation to the rest of the imperial forces. The level of danger was painfully apparent. They were surrounded by a vast armada that guarded both the planet and the moon.

“The attack has begun,” said Xavier, “We’ve achieved the element of surprise.”

“This D’ken guy sounds pretty nasty, but even he can’t account for us having a cosmic bird on our side,” commented Iceman.

“It is a limited, yet vital advantage,” said Beast as he zoomed in on the image of the palace, “The imperial defense forces have picked up on the attack. They’re diverting their attention to the palace as we speak.”

“That means we’ve gained the necessary distraction as well,” said Xavier, “Now we can go after D’ken and the crystal.”

“You mean he’s not on the planet?” said Storm.

“No. Only the dimensional reactors and the primary antenna are on Chandilar,” said Xavier, “D’ken and the M’krann Crystal are on the moon, Chandilar-2.”

“Are you sure of this, Professor?” asked Colossus.

“He’s sure, Colossus. So am I,” said Phoenix, still radiating with white flames.

“I can feel the crystal. It’s entering a critical stage.”

“That means we’re ready to proceed with the next step,” said the Professor as he turned towards the flight deck, “Corsair, pull away from the attack and steady the ship!”

“Damn…just when I was settling in!” said the grizzled pilot.

Corsair gripped the controls and turned the Starjammer around, leaving Squadron XB-7 to take care of the remaining interceptors. They kept attacking the palace, allowing them to slip away from the battle for a moment. Once they were free of enemy fire, the ship leveled off and allowed the X-men to get out of their seats.

As the team got ready for the next phase of this bold mission, Xavier turned his attention to Lilandra. Beast stayed close as well. This was where faith factored into the plan. They each had to believe that they were going to make it through this.

“This is where we part ways, Lilandra,” said Xavier, “Now you’re certain the palace contains this family heirloom you told me about?”

“It was one of the main objectives of our first raid. I know it’s there. Freeing the Starjammers along with D’ken’s many prisoners will help,” assured Lilandra, “Now quit talking as if I’m the one with the harder job.”

“We all have our roles to play. If I could have it another way, we would defeat D’ken together,” he told her.

“It doesn’t matter who brings my brother down. So long as we end this war, I’ll settle for a secondary role. Just be sure you give D’ken my solemn regards.”

“I’ll be sure he gets the message,” Xavier promised, “To aid you in your mission, Beast will stay behind. He is familiar with Shi’ar technology and will utilize the Warlock components we obtained from Genosha. That should make your infiltration into the palace much easier.”

“I’ve put together some creative configurations with help from your fellow scientists. I think they’ll give D’ken’s forces substantial headaches,” said Beast, who had a special handheld computer with Warlock engravings.

“Breaking into the palace isn’t what concerns me. Even after our first attempt failed so miserably,” said Lilandra distantly, “As much as I want this conflict to end, I also want you and your students to come out of it in once piece. Promise me you’ll still be fighting when we rendezvous later on.”

“I promise,” he said with a loving gesture to reinforce his point, “I’ve let my limitations hurt those I love one too many times. I will make this right…for both of us.”

“Then there’s nothing less for me to say other than…be careful.”

Whether the conflicts are cosmic or local in scale, I’m still determined to make every clash in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series as epic as it can be. At a time when the X-men comics are only giving us sterilization and extinction plots, I think it’s important to ensure that X-men Supreme offers something different and not just a series where Jean Grey, Cyclops, Wolverine, and Charles Xavier are alive and no one is time displaced. I want it to stand out for all the right reasons in all the right ways. That’s why it’s so critical that I continue to get feedback for this fanfiction series. Any amount will help, but I can’t make X-men Supreme as awesome as I want to be without support. So please take the time to contact me directly or post your comments directly in the issue. Either way is fine and both ways help. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

All-New Wolverine #11: Nuff Said!

We all have awkward encounters at some point in our lives. Sometimes we have them with people we try desperately to avoid. Like explaining to a New Jersey traffic cop why you're drunk and your pants are missing, it's rarely a memorable experience for the right reasons, even if it can be pretty damn hilarious.

There's nothing funny about the encounter between X-23 and Old Man Logan though. We all knew their paths were going to cross at some point. Tom Taylor doesn't even try to hide it in All-New Wolverine. He just waits until the shittiest possible time during Civil War II when heroes are killing their friends, injustice is treated as justice, and people have horrifying visions of a naked Hulk. For X-23, however, a naked Hulk is only the second most horrifying vision. The one that is most pressing in All-New Wolverine #11 involves Old Man Logan killing Gabby. It has terrifying implications, but I still contend it's less terrifying than a naked Hulk.

You know what also has terrifying implications? Sending a bunch of armed government types to tell Old Man Logan to surrender himself. Seriously, who the fuck still thinks this is a good idea? Really, what the fuck are they smoking to think that armed government types put ANY version of Wolverine in a cooperative mood? Seriously.

To SHIELD's credit, they do send Captain America, one of Wolverine's old war buddies. So whatever they're smoking, they stopped at one joint I guess. They suspect Old Man Logan is about to kill Gabby. I still say giving him a case of whiskey and a box full of Japanese porn will keep him this from happening, they just have to come in with guns. I guess that's all SHIELD knows how to do these days. Since X-23 did so much to help SHIELD recently, including flying a jet pack naked, I guess they think they owe her. Someone still needs to tell them that an old, cranky version of Wolverine is still not going to respond kindly to government types.

They manage to avoid a typical Wolverine-fueled blood bath and stab-fest, thanks largely to Captain America's presence and Maria Hill barking orders. X-23 allows Captain America into her apartment so they can chat before they start stabbing shit. That's when Gabby shows up and she helps break the tension with her undeniable cuteness. That, and she has a pet wolverine. I dare anyone to create anything more adorable.

It helps that Captain America is also nice to Gabby's pet wolverine. That immediately wins him some points in my book. It wins points with Gabby too, who is like an adorable little fangirl geeking out in the presence of her hero. It helps ease the tension somewhat. In a situation with a lot of armed guards and no whiskey, that's pretty damn important.

Things get tense pretty fucking fast though. Captain America tells Old Man Logan that a vision from Ulysses reveals he's going to kill a lot of people. Before he can roll his eyes and say, "No shit, dumbass! I don't need some racist xenophobic slave-owner to tell me that shit!" X-23 steps in and questions their approach. It's one thing to follow up on a vision from Ulysses. It's quite another to show up with armed guards trying to subdue a version of Wolverine that's old, cranky, and easily pissed off.

Even so, Gabby is involved and that's kind of a big deal in Old Man Logan's eyes. He's not going to get too stabby around her, her pet wolverine, or X-23. So he says he'll go along with them and give these armed government types a chance to do something right. Try and read that sentence again without laughing. I swear it's not possible in this universe.

Naturally, X-23 suspects that Old Man Logan knows how ridiculous that idea is. She assumes Old Man Logan isn't going to go with any government types unless it involves a lot of stabbing. She doesn't like the idea of government types attacking her dimensionally-displaced father either. Having already lost one version of Logan, she's not eager to lose another. That means she's willing to fight Captain freakin' America to stop it. Yes, she's willing to fight the government's top gun to avoid SHIELD's bullshit. Any version of Logan would be so proud of her.

This leads to a beautifully rendered, nicely detailed fight between Captain America and X-23. It's a uniquely satisfying fight because Captain America and Logan fought on more than one occasion. They may be war buddies, but it doesn't take much for them to get at each other's throats and not just because certain Canadian beers are inherently superior to American beers. Captain America and Wolverine function on a very different level so of course they're going to fight.

This is no exception. In this case, X-23 just battles Captain America to give Gabby and Old Man Logan time to escape. Even Jonathan the Wolverine gets in on the action. He actually bites a SHIELD agent. That alone makes him the pet of the year in my opinion. At the rate he's going, he'll deserves his own Pixar movie by the end of the year.

So how does a grumpy old man and an adorable little girl escape armed government thugs? The awesome way, of course. That means they use jet packs and blow a hole in the wall. I'm pretty sure that's how Chuck Norris chooses to leave every room. They even blow past some of the neighbors as well, adding some nice humor to along with the serious crime of running from SHIELD and Captain America. X-23 doesn't have a jet pack of her own, but she does steal a gun from a SHIELD agent and uses it to hit Captain America with a tranquilizer. It's like pissing on the Statue of Liberty for some heroes. For X-23, it's protecting her sister and displaced grandfather. It's a powerful and satisfying moment.

After hitting Captain America with enough tranquilizer darts to give Ozzy Osborn a mild buzz, X-23 confronts him. X-23 isn't quite as eager to stab him as most enemies so that gives Cap a chance to share some details of Ulysses' vision that may have been useful before. He claims that the vision is pretty damn specific. Old Man Logan flat out stabs Gabby. He even says jet packs were in the prediction because he's that fucking specific. Imagine what this guy could do in fantasy football. It's enough to give X-23 mild pause, if only because it'll be devastating to Gabby's pet wolverine.

Jet packs are awesome. Escaping with them is pretty fucking badass. That's objectively true. However, jet packs have their limits, especially when the enemies have a fleet of fucking helicarriers at their disposal. This is where Maria Hill finally contributes. She manages to use one of the Hellicarriers to shoot them both down over Central Park. It's effective in slowing them down. It also gives Old Man Logan all the more reason to stab shit and that's just pouring gasoline on an open fire. I don't know if that's in Ulysses' vision too, but even he probably understands how fucking retarded that is.

More SHIELD agents arrive. They still have guns and they still want to subdue Old Man Logan. Again, when has this EVER been an effective method of dealing with Logan? When has sending armed government types to shoot him EVER not led to a terrible bloody mess? SHIELD can afford helicarriers. Surely they can afford to answer a question like this.

It gets ugly real fast, even as Captain America and X-23 catch up. They pump Old Man Logan with so many tranquilizers that they could down an 80s hair metal band. Eventually, X-23 and Cap get them to stop, if only to limit the stabbing damage. Gabby even tries to calm things down, as only an adorable little girl can. Then, it fucking happens.

Yeah, I'm sure even Ulysses threw up a little when he saw this. It's the kind of emotional gut punch that you thought they were avoiding. Instead, we get this. Old Man Logan stabs Gabby and not because of asshole SHIELD agents either. It's a moment that hits you in ways only reserved for bag hangovers and tax audits. It's a moment that turns this issue from a simple run-of-the-mill tie-in to something pretty fucking epic. Now excuse me. I need to drink heavily and cry a little. it awesome?

Let me just look at that final page for another minute or two before I answer. Okay, I'm back. I can now say it definitively. Holy hellfire in a hobo's asshole, yes! Tom Taylor delivers the comic book equivalent of a gut punch and a blowjob in a single book. We've spent the last few issues falling in love with Gabby, enjoying every cute little quirk about her and X-23. Now, Civil War II enters the picture and we get this. Fuck me with a bag of dildos, it's powerful. It's whiskey mixed with gasoline powerful, but in the best possible way. Even if you think Civil War II sucks elephant balls, All-New Wolverine #11 will leave a dent in your soul. If not, you're dead inside.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Civil War II: X-men #3: Nuff Said!

Go back and watch the first Back to the Future movie. Then, imagine if Biff Tanner had been given steroids, a bag of crystal meth, and an AK-47. That should give you a good idea of what the Inhumans have going for them right now in the Marvel universe. Yes, these racist, xenophobic, slave-owning asshats are getting those kinds of benefits because Fox demands too many blowjobs for anything involving mutants. That's what the X-men are up against in Civil War II.

Now, the Inhumans have the ultimate edge in Ulysses, as if having Kamala Khan on their side wasn't enough. While he does help save Magneto and the Uncanny X-men team, there are still those who aren't all that comfortable with the Inhumans having this kind of weapon. Naturally, Magneto is one of them. Tragically, Storm still thinks there's benefits to teaming up with racist, xenophobic slave-owners who don't want to do shit about the poison fart cloud that's killing her people. I normally support storm in all things, but I really have a hard time standing by her on this one. I'm hoping Civil War II: X-men #3 will at least add some balance to the argument because I am not comfortable siding against a woman who can turn my asshole into a lightning rod.

In the spirit of balance, it helps to find someone who knows a thing or two about this shit. You know who has a good idea of what shitty futures feel like? Rachel Grey-Summers. Yep! The daughter of two founding members of the X-men comes from a pretty shitty future to say the least. She's basically a mutant-hunting bloodhound, albeit a very sexy mutant-hunting bloodhound. I'm just saying that if I'm going to be hunted and killed in an shitty future, I want it done by a pretty redhead and not some giant Inhuman fart cloud.

Why is Rachel Grey suddenly relevant? Well, at the end of the previous issue, Magneto is in need of a telepath and Psylocke currently trusts him about as much as she can jerk off to him. So he needs another telepath who's on her level. Rachel Grey's mother is a telepath so powerful she bitch-slapped Emma Frost and hogtied the Phoenix Force for years. She's got a damn good pedigree is what I'm saying.

Magneto tracks her down in London where she's reading some pretty sick thoughts and not of the Austin Powers variety. Apparently, dying mutants generate about as much concern as potholes and cheap wine. The minds Rachel reads are basically cut and pasted from Disney lawyers. They're eager to see every mutant in the world wiped out to make way for the racist, xenophobic slave-owners to take their place. Suddenly, I feel like strangling Austin Powers and pissing on his grave.

Naturally, it doesn't take much to convince Rachel to help Magneto. She's already from a shitty future. Now, the racist xenophobic slave-owners behind the mutant-killing fart cloud have Ulysses on their side. Magneto makes the perfectly logical point that mutants would not be this screwed, were it not for the racist xenophobic slave-owners. So of course Rachel Grey agrees to help him. In her future, the racist xenophobic slave-owners don't do shit to help anyone. Now they've got a fucking pre-cog on their side? That's like Donald Trump winning the fucking lottery.

It's one of the strangest, yet most intriguing parts of this series. Magneto is making the most sense. Again, let me say that more slowly. Magneto is making sense. Anyone who has been an X-men fan longer than a few years understands how fucked up that is. That's just the kind of world X-men live in now, thanks to racist xenophobic slave owners.

While Magneto is making sense and recruiting powerful telepaths from shitty futures, Storm makes some effort at a peaceful solution. She meets with the queen of the racist xenophobic slave-owners. It's admirable to some degree. Then, I remember that this is the same queen of the racist xenophobic slave-owners who doesn't do jack shit to help an entire race that's dying because of a big fucking fart cloud.

Never-the-less, there is a genuine effort here to provide balance to the debate. Storm and Medusa of the racist xenophobic slave-owners discuss the recent break-in of Fantomex, one of Magneto's top spies. The racist xenophobic slave-owners don't appreciate spies, even if it's from another race they're helping to exterminate. Storm points out that they helped with this. They didn't even ask the racist xenophobic slave-owners to step it up on the whole M-pox issue. They just did the right thing, hoping to avoid another shit storm with racist xenophobic slave-owners.

The conversation here is actually pretty dense. Cullen Bunn really digs into the personalities of both characters. Storm is a former queen. Medusa is an acting queen of the racist xenophobic slave-owners. They can relate to one another better than most. Hell, Old Man Logan would probably just try to bone her because she has red hair. Storm makes a genuine effort to avoid becoming enemies. She wants to be allies with racist xenophobic slave-owners. I'm not sure if that makes her hypocritical, but she's still sincere as she always is.

That said, she does show some frustration at some point. It's the first time Storm actually shows a little backbone against the racist xenophobic slave-owners. Instead of bitching about Cyclops and blaming everything on him, she actually gets hostile towards Medusa and her racist xenophobic slave-owners for the current state of mutants. What makes it remarkable is that it does work to some degree. Medusa agrees not to unleash the full force of the racist xenophobic slave-owners against Magneto. She still wants to try a more measured response, which is probably the best Storm can hope for from a bunch of racist xenophobic slave-owners.

The response is actually fairly measured. Medusa sends a spy on behalf of the racist xenophobic slave-owners to Magneto's base in the Savage Land. He arrives just in time to listen to Magneto say what pretty much every single X-men fan feels right now. The racist xenophobic slave-owners don't deserve to have a powerful pre-cog on their team for the same reason that Warren Buffet doesn't deserve tax breaks. Their only hope is to secure Ulysses to keep the racist xenophobic slave-owners from exploiting his talents. They make it clear they don't want to kill him, but knowing Magento, that's always an option. Against racist xenophobic slave-owners, he tends not to be that merciful.

He also tends to know when he's being spied on. This guy fought fucking Nazis. He's used to sniffing out racist xenophobic slave-owners. With Sabretooth on his team, it's even easier. Does it make for a bland spy movie? Sure. At this point though, how competent can you expect racist xenophobic slave-owners to be?

There's more spy shit going on in other parts as well. In the previous issue, Storm's team manages to capture Fantomex, thanks to help from Gambit. These efforts mean Gambit gets to kiss Storm on the cheek without getting a lightning bolt up the ass. That's as good a reward as any in my book. It gives them a chance to interrogate Fantomex. Since Psylocke is on their team, I'm pretty sure they're eager to violate every provision of the Geneva Convention.

They don't have to though. Fantomex is happy to cooperate, telling them he just went to spy on the racist xenophobic slave-owners to scope them out. He was never going to harm Ulysses or any of the racist xenophobic slave-owners, which is a pretty big deal for someone who once shot a kid in the head. Even Psylocke, who wants any excuse to rip his eyes out, says he's telling the truth.

The only problem is that Fantomex, being the douche-bag that he is, doesn't cooperate this easily unless there's a tactical advantage. In this case, that means him setting up an attack by Magneto's team. Nightcrawler, Monet, Sabretooth, and Arcangel each storm in and release Fantomex. This officially sets off the war part of X-men Civil War II. It may have taken a while to unfold, but fuck if it isn't satisfying.

It has Sabretooth vs. Old Man Logan. It has Storm vs. Arcangel. It has Magik vs. Monet. It even has Mystique vs. Gambit and who doesn't want to see a bitter old woman deck the guy who tries to constantly screw her daughter? It's as satisfying as it sounds. While X-men do fight each other a lot these days, so do other heroes. It's an obscenely common theme in an event called Civil War. That's what makes it so fitting.

As much fun as it is seeing X-men fight X-men, even when it's the racist xenophobic slave-owners who are fucking them over, there are real tactical mechanisms in play here. As the X-men are making life that much easier for the racist xenophobic slave-owners, a few decide to actually do something. With Storm's team distracted, Magneto and Rachel Grey head towards Attilan to confront the racist xenophobic slave-owners and their newest weapon. It's still strange, rooting for Magneto this much, but he's too damn competent and too damn reasonable this time. A holocaust survivor against racist xenophobic slave-owners? No contest. it awesome?

Well for one, it's refreshing to see Storm show some backbone against Medusa. Sure, they're just a few sparks and she still gives the impression that she's not willing to lick Medusa's asshole clean if she were to ask, but she doesn't just bend over and take it. She has slightly more dignity than a gimp in a German fetish porno. Even so, her side still fails to make any case that working with the Inhumans makes any fucking sense. They're still racist xenophobic slave owners who don't do jack shit when mutants are dying. Magneto rightly points this out and I can't disagree with him.

Beyond Storm showing at least some backbone, the action here is solid. Cullen Bunn once again arranges the story masterfully. It doesn't have any major "Oh fuck me with a telephone pole!" type moments, but he puts all the major players in place. He creates a solid, well-detailed plan that doesn't just involve X-men bitching at one another. It's the kind of refinement that makes Bunn the kind of X-men writer that you could share a glass of imported wine with. For that, Civil War II #3 has everything going for it, except overpriced cheese.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Fan Among Heroes: All-New, All-Different Avengers Annual #1

The following is my review of All-New, All Different Avengers Annual #1, which was posted on

The success of Deadpool proves there's a fertile market for a story that dares to be overly meta. It's not just about breaking the fourth wall or acknowledging the erratic sentiments of comic book message boards. The appeal of a meta-narrative acts as a mirror of sorts, reflecting the passions of fans, be they the healthy kinds and the not-so-healthy kinds.

Most fans agree that passions like Deadpool aren't exactly healthy. More often than not, they earn the same R-rating as his movie. That doesn't mean that a more PG-13 version of these passions is impossible. In fact, there's another character who embodies the best of these passions and doesn't need to make dirty jokes about it. That character, of course, is Kamala Khan.

There's a long list of reasons why Kamala Khan is such a lovable, endearing character. Chief among them is the fact that she's a fan. Before she becomes Ms. Marvel, she's just another passionate fangirl who loves superheroes and writes fan fiction . She is very much the embodiment of the passions of countless fans. That makes the setup in All-New, All-Different Avengers Annual #1 especially engaging because it offers insight into the fan fiction that reflects Kamala's passions for superheroes. That insight makes for a cartoonish yet uniquely entertaining narrative that inspires the fanboys and fangirls alike.

Some parts of that setup are built upon Ms. Marvel's current narrative. She's an Avenger now and rapidly ascending the ever-shifting hierarchy of the Marvel universe. She even manages to do it without time travel, clones, or someone dying. That alone is a testament to her strengths. Despite this, she is still a teenager and she is still woefully inexperienced. This means she constantly clashes with her teammates, especially her younger cohorts in Spider-Man and Nova.

This inexperience and immaturity, the foundation on which most teenage superheroes grow, makes her reaction to fan fiction stories about Ms. Marvel all the more entertaining. She can't be expected to just ignore the insanity that often manifests in fan fiction. She's a young hero who still isn't accustomed seeing her name associated with embarrassing, easily accessible media. After the events of  All-New, All-Different Avengers Annual #1, she'll likely need advice from Peter Parker.

The story is organized through several colorful, laughably cheesy stories written by multiple writers, including Mark Waid and G. Willow Wilson. They each act as a commentary of sorts on the colorful proclivities of fan fiction, such as tendencies to create bizarre romantic entanglements and making unpopular political statements. These stories never take themselves too seriously and aren't going to be confused with canon in this or any other universe. That's what gives them their charm.

It's because of that unique charm that these stories tend to evoke strong reactions. As some of these stories unfold, Kamala's reactions are almost as relevant as the story themselves. Take one story involving Ms. Marvel attaining the rank of Captain Marvel. At first, it plays out like a story that Kamala Khan would love. Then, an overtly politically incorrect twist at the end completely reverses her reaction. It's the kind of reversal that no competent editor will allow in a comic, but one that manifests all too easily in fan fiction.

Then, there's the story about She-Hulk and a love triangle. It's not a love triangle that would make it into an X-men movie, but it involves She-Hulk being woefully out-of-character in professing her love to a giant monster. It's as strange and entertaining as it sounds. It's also not-so-subtle commentary on the way love triangles play out, both in canon and in fan fiction. It doesn't take much to make them laughably absurd.

Despite this absurdity, it's the strange love story that involves Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales, and a world where everyone is an anthropomorphic animal that bothers Kamala the most. What makes this part of the story stand out is that, as quirky and cartoonish as it is, neither she nor Miles are completely out-of-character. It's another not-so-subtle comment about fan fiction. As crazy as it can be, it is possible for certain truisms to manifest within these absurdities.

These truisms play right into the meta themes of this story. In the end, Kamala Khan's sentiments are similar to those of fans. A few intriguing reveals at the end shows that she's not alone. It creates a larger message of sorts, one that implies that superheroes are aware of the quirky fandoms they inspire. Sometimes those quirks reveal genuine insight for these characters. It doesn't have to involve the bizarre quirks of fan fiction, but they do help get the point across.

For the most part, however, the quirky little stories in All-New, All-Different Avengers Annual #1 don't factor too heavily into Kamla Khan's reaction. Some are just pure entertainment value of the most absurd kind. At a time when Marvel is exploring the dire, depressing issues manifesting in Civil War II, this offers a nice reprieve, even if it doesn't tell a wholly cohesive story.

The lack of cohesion keeps the narrative from gaining any depth. In a story that explores the absurdities of fan fiction, there's only so much depth that's possible, but not much is realized outside a couple stories. Some of those stories may be quirky. Some are more forgettable than others. There's still undeniable entertainment value to be had. There's also an important message to convey.

The internet can and will annoy superheroes every bit as much as the villains they face. With All-New, All-Different Avengers Annual #1, Kamala Khan learns this the hard way. It's just one of many steps she'll have to take in her quest to become a better hero.

Final Score: 7 out of 10