Friday, March 31, 2017

X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided Announcement and PREVIEW!

It’s almost here. A new era of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series is about to begin. The end of X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide effectively split the X-men into two teams. The events of X-men Supreme Issue 6.1: Beyond Top Secret helped solidify those teams. Now, it’s time for both teams to enter a world that is still fragile and wary after the assault by the Mutant Liberation Front.

This won’t just be a matter of moving onto new enemies, confronting new threats, or forging new allegiances. The X-men must completely change how they’ll operate moving forward. Some of that is out of necessity. The Xavier Institute was destroyed, as it often tends to be in the X-men comics, during the events of X-men Supreme Issue 147: Vengeful Anarchy. The loss of their home, in many ways, triggered the initiative that Professor Charles Xavier crafted with General Grimshaw and President Kelly. He calls it the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It will, for the most part, be the guiding force for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series moving forward.

Since X-men Supreme began, the X-men have had a tense and fragile relationship with the authorities. Going all the way back to X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution, there have been times when the authorities have been adversaries. That relationship has been in flux ever since, but it gained a new dimension with the arrival of General Grimshaw in X-men Supreme Issue 75: Renegade. His emergence as President Kelly’s most trusted associate in mutant matters ensured that closer ties between the X-men and the government were inevitable. With events like Natural Disorder and The Cambrian Explosion, these ties only became more complex.

In the end, the Mutant Liberation Front in X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation pushed both sides over the edge. Charles Xavier could no longer cling to full breadth of his dream. President Kelly and General Grimshaw could no longer tolerate the X-men’s method of doing things. Something had to change. The Mutant Monitoring Initiative is the catalyst for that change, but not everybody is on board with it.

In the final moments of X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide, some of Charles Xavier’s most loyal X-men decided to cut ties. This included Cyclops and Wolverine, two X-men who rarely see eye-to-eye on anything. However, they agreed that their mentor had lost sight of his dream. They’ve now taken it upon themselves to fight for what’s left of it by forming X-Force, a new team that will operate outside the Mutant Monitoring Initiative.

What does this mean for the X-men moving forward? What does this mean for the future of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series? There’s a lot of drama, upheaval, and struggle ahead. That’s why I’m proud to officially announce the beginning of the next stage of this fanfiction series. I call it X-men Supreme Volume 7: Divided and United. The first issue, like previous volumes of X-men Supreme before it, will jump ahead somewhat in time. It will also set the stage for a new set of conflicts in X-men Supreme. As always, I’ve prepared a preview of this new era of X-men Supreme.

“State your business and show your identification. You have five seconds to comply,” said one of the MSA operatives from behind the gate.

“The paint isn’t even dry on this place and you’re already treating it like George Washington’s tomb. Gotta love this city,” commented Melita as she showed her ID.

“You must be the new press hound from the White House,” said the operative, “Tell me, how did you get roped into this job again? You make a pass at your boss or something?”

“Believe it or not, I didn’t have to sleep with anybody to get this job. Doing PR for the Pentagon just wasn’t exciting anymore. I’m ready for something bigger and that something is waiting for me inside. Now if you don’t mind, can you let me through? I’ve got a deadline.”

Melita spoke with a toughness not often heard from media personnel. The MSA operative stood mildly impressed. He turned towards the MPs and nodded, who opened the gate. The young woman then walked in confidently with poise, adjusting her sunglasses as she walked up the winding trail that led to the Xavier Institute.

Along the way she passed more MPs and a few maintenance workers. Even though this facility looked like a private mansion, it had the feel of a government facility. Something about that seemed a little off, but that was why Melita was here.

She followed the trail up to the front door of the institute. Upon arriving, she saw that Charles Xavier was already standing there waiting for her. He wasn’t dressed like a politician or a military man. Instead he wore dark pants, a dress shirt, and a blazer. He still looked like a Professor, which was reassuring in the sea of controversy that surrounded this facility.

“You must be Melita Garner. The Mutant Monitoring Initiatives newest PR consultant,” greeted Professor Xavier.

“Just Melita is fine. Let’s avoid unnecessary breaths and go straight to being on a first-name basis,” replied Melita as she shook his hand, “We’ll have to be if we’re going to make this work.”

“Indeed,” Xavier agreed, “I hope you’ll bear with me because I’m not quite sure what this entails.”

“You and everyone else at the Press Corp,” she said, “This is General Grimshaw’s idea so take it up with him if you want. He thinks that after the Mutant Monitoring Initiative was approved, it still requires a significant image boost. You and the X-men have been running around making all this noise, but not everyone is able to listen. My job is to sift through that noise and deliver the right message to the public.”

“By right, you mean...”

“I’d rather not get into semantics. For now, assume that John and Jane Q. Public are standing right in front of you. They want a full assessment of how the Mutant Monitoring Initiative has unfolded over the past seven months. They also want to know where it’s going moving forward.”

“Sounds like perfectly reasonable concerns,” said Xavier, “I’m more than happy to discuss them at length. Care to walk and talk at the same time?”

“Taking notes on the move is a requirement for everyone in PR. I’ll be recording this for the record so in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll ask you to be concise,” said Melita, “It also wouldn’t hurt to be mindful of what you’re saying.”

“I’m the world’s most powerful psychic. Paranoia is somewhat redundant,” he quipped in good humor, “Besides, I’ve nothing to hide, nor do I care to during this critical transition.”

“So try anyways. In this town, saying too much can get you into a world of trouble.”

It sounded like a warning. Melita clearly took her job seriously. He also sensed in her a touch of cynicism. She assumed every shortcoming was severe and did not shy away from harsh truth. It was little wonder why General Grimshaw selected her for this. So while maintaining his calm demeanor, Professor Xavier started walking while Melita turned on her recorder.

“Let’s start with the basics,” she began, now holding the recorder up near the Professor, “Your team consists of seven X-men. Phoenix, Beast, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Colossus, and Psylocke. You have two reserve X-men with Shadowcat and Iceman, who are currently attending school at the Academy of Tomorrow. Between each of them, you have a fairly limited number of mutants to head up such a bold operation.”

“I’ve always been a strong believer in quality over quantity,” replied Xavier, “These gifted individuals have more than just mutant abilities and the training to use it. They have my trust.”

“That trust must go a long way. Before the ink dried on the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, you and the X-men hit the ground running.”

“We had little choice in the matter. The world was vulnerable. The Mutant Liberation Front may have been thwarted, but the Genosha exodus changed the stakes. Every nation on the planet was clamoring for some sense of clarity. They wanted to know where all these mutants were, what they were up to, and what happened to the valuable technology they took with them when they disappeared.”

“And have your X-men obtained any answers?”

“We’ve surmised part of the answer,” said Xavier, choosing his words carefully, “Before this new institute was complete, I worked with General Grimshaw to get a new version of Cerebrum up and running.”

“Cerebrum…you mean that mutant-tracking computer that many find so mysterious?”

“There’s nothing mysterious about it. The way it works is well-understood by those familiar with the biology and physiology of the X-gene.”

“All of which could probably fit into a greyhound bus,” Melita quipped.

“Even fewer understand quantum mechanics, but that doesn’t prevent people from enjoying its fruits. Namely computers, cell phones, and even the recording device you’re using this very moment.”

There was a certain wryness to his tone. Melita tried to blitz him with finer details, but he didn’t skip a beat. It left her mildly impressed. He still had much to prove though.

“Regardless of how it works, we were able to get a new Cerebrum up and running within a month. Thankfully, I had many of the files from my previous institute backed up in a secure location. So we were able to get to work. Thanks to the addition of the MSA’s resources, we were able to get a firm grasp of mutant activity.”

“How much of that activity was from former Genoshans?” asked Melita.

“Not nearly as much as we hoped,” Xavier conceded, “But we were able to confirm some of our early suspicions. The society that was created on Genosha is still active, even if it’s now fragmented. Just as before, they guard their thoughts and capabilities very well. So much so that Cerebrum cannot hone in on all of them at this time.”

“I assume there are exceptions,” she stated.

“There often are. We discovered early on that some of Genosha’s citizen’s are not quite on board with their leadership’s current agenda.”

As I’ve said before, this will be a very different battle for the X-men. This fanfiction series is undergoing some of its greatest upheavals to date. Characters will be shaken. Relationships will be strained. Revelations will further test the bonds between the X-men. As I’ve done since I began this fanfiction series, I intend to make it as awesome as I possibly can. To do that, I still need feedback from all the passionate X-men fans I know are out there. Given the ambitious nature of X-men Supreme Volume 7: Divided and United, that feedback is more vital than ever. So please take the time to post your comments. Either contact me directly or post your comments directly in the issue. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Priming A New Future: X-men Prime #1

The following is my review of X-men Prime #1, which was posted on

Victory in every conflict comes at a price, but sometimes the price is secondary to the situation. For the X-men, the situation tends to be convoluted in detail, but simple in substance. Either they achieve victory or they go extinct. There's very little gray area in between. Those are the stakes that play out in Inhumans vs. X-men. Those are the stakes that drive the X-men's overall narrative as a series.

Now, with the conclusion of Inhumans vs. X-men, the situation is ready to evolve. The X-men once again have a chance to do more than just fight for their right to exist, which has been at the heart of nearly every major conflict since House of M. It's a chance they can't afford to squander. Stories involving sterilization and extinction are rapidly losing their ability to generate dramatic weight. More than any other ongoing series, the X-men need a new conflict with new stakes.

That's exactly what X-men Prime #1 sets out to do. Under the pen of Marc Guggenheim, Greg Pak, and Cullen Bunn, and a couple other top-tier artists, the X-men's story finally moves forward from yet another extinction/sterilization plot. It is, effectively, a bridge from one era to another. It helps settle the dust of one conflict while preparing the X-men for another.

The conflict itself is still secondary compared to the situation. Compared to the X-men's situation after Secret Wars, it doesn't take much to improve their predicament. In essence, this is one situation where over-achievement is necessary to elicit the necessary impact. It's a challenge and not just because impacting the X-men usually requires killer robots. He is tasked with essentially molding a new situation for the X-men to navigate. What he ends up crafting is as polished as it is compelling.

There are no killer robots. There are no poison gas clouds, time-traveling assassins, or clone army. X-men Prime #1 isn't structured for those kinds of fireworks. It's very much an epilogue and a prelude for the X-men as a whole. It unfolds primarily through the eyes of Kitty Pryde, who was lucky enough to have avoided the whole sterilization/poison gas cloud/war with the Inhumans. In many respects, that makes her uniquely qualified to take in this new status quo.

Kitty, having spent much of her time guarding the galaxy with her ex-fiance and a talking raccoon, returns to the world of X-men that wants to change. From Storm to the time-displaced X-men, Guggenheim, Pak, and Bunn create this prevailing sentiment that the way they're doing things has to change. Their current way put them at war with the Inhumans and forced them to live in a demon-infested realm. With or without mutant powers, any system that puts anyone into close proximity with demons is definitely a system in need of revision.

This makes for some very personal moments between Kitty Pryde and several characters who have been deeply affected by recent events, some of which don't even involve demons. Most of those moments involve Storm, who presents herself as a relic of the old system, in a sense.

She accepts responsibility for the decisions that led to the X-men's war with the Inhumans. She makes clear and gives some fairly understandable reasons why she doesn't feel inclined to lead anymore. Again, the X-men ended up living in a demon-infested realm under her leadership. She realizes on some levels that there's room for improvement.

Not every moment is as personal, though. Kitty does get a chance to meet up with Colossus, which is understandably awkward, but promptly avoided. She also gets a chance to meet up with the time-displaced X-men, albeit indirectly. These moments aren't quite as dramatic, but they do serve a purpose in that they show how portions of the X-men are going in different directions. Kitty can only do so much to influence them, but she's in a position to do more for the X-men than most. At this point, any direction that doesn't involve close proximity to demons counts as an upgrade.

X-men Prime #1 doesn't just succeed in using these personal moments with Kitty to move the X-men forward. It succeeds in making it feel dramatic and sincere. Being able to do this without killer robots or sterilization plots counts as an accomplishment these days. Through Kitty Pryde, he's able to convey a sense of hope and determination, two of the most important elements in any era of X-men.

As good as these moments are, there are a few that don't feel quite as dramatic. Kitty's interaction with Colossus is relatively minor and doesn't get too personal. A side-plot involving Lady Deathstrike and Weapon X feels disconnected and unnecessary to the overall story. While the moment with the time-displaced X-men offers a nice twist, it doesn't have many specifics. Some elements are left a bit vague, but it never feels too convoluted. In a series with clones and time-displaced characters, that still counts for something.

In terms of setting the stage for a new era of X-men, X-men Prime #1 checks nearly every box. Guggenheim, Pak, and Bunn establish a direction for the team. He takes the X-men out of the demon-infested and into a more promising situation. Considering how grim and dire the X-men's condition has been since the conclusion of Secret Wars, it's downright refreshing.

Sure, there are bound to be more attacks by killer robots. Sure, it's very likely that more clones and time travelers will enter the mix and frustrate the X-men. Like Wolverine and beer, certain elements are inescapably linked. The challenge is making the narrative behind these links compelling. In that sense, X-men Prime #1 rises to the challenge. For now, there's hope for the world of the X-men and, provided nobody ends up sterilized, that hope holds a great deal of promise and potential.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Von Doom — Unofficial Dr. Doom Fan Film

Let's not lie to ourselves. Nearly every Fantastic Four movie, the Incredibles notwithstanding, has sucked donkey balls. Fox has failed so miserably that if it were a teenage girl, she would be full-on goth by now. So what does it say about Fox when a cheap fan-film about Dr. Doom is better than three big-budget Hollywood movies? I don't know, but this shit is pretty damn awesome. Nuff said!

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Red Queen Chronicles: The Spy Chapter 1 is LIVE!

I hope everybody is rested, excited, and maybe even a little horny because it’s time for another one of my sexy side-projects. With winter coming to an end, spring starting to settle in, and people needing to wear less clothing, I feel the time is just right. I know every time of year is improved with a little added sex appeal. This time of year is just a bit more appropriate than most.

I’ve already teased the topic of my next sexy side-project. I’ve given plenty of attention to Mary Jane Watson in my recent projects. In my defense, that attention is totally warranted. She’s Mary Jane Watson for crying out loud. Whether she’s Spider-Man’s wife or a high-end prostitute, she’s got the kind of sex appeal that everyone can appreciate it.

Through my “Red Queen Chronicles” series, I’ve given Mary Jane plenty of opportunities to be sexy and she has taken full advantage of them. For this latest project, I’m going to give another sexy redhead an opportunity. In this case, it’s Natasha “Black Widow” Romanov. She has helped make Scarlett Johannson the highest paid actress in Hollywood. I think she’s earned a role in a sexy side-project.

This particular entry will have two parts. Both will explore a different side of Black Widow. I’m not saying this side will be perfectly in line with the canon of the comics or the movie. It’s not supposed to be. It’s just supposed to be a sexy story to enjoy as we count down the days until the beaches open for the summer.

This story marks the first time I’ve incorporated the Avengers side of things into my “Red Queen Chronicles” series. Depending on how well this goes, I’ll certainly contemplate more down the line. For now, it’s Black Widow’s turn to enter the world of the “Red Queen Chronicles.” Enjoy!

As always, I encourage everyone to take the time to review this story. Tell me what you think by posting your comments here or on the adult fanfiction website. If there’s another character you think should pay a visit to the world of Mary Jane Watson, the Red Queen, please let me know. I’m always open to new and sexy ideas. Nuff said!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Capping Off A (Somewhat) Extraordinary Journey: Extraordinary X-men #20

The following is my review of Extraordinary X-men #20, which was posted on

For certain eras, there are characters who become symbolic of the conflicts. Sometimes they are the catalyst for the conflict. Sometimes they are the reaction to it. In either case, these characters embody a certain mentality and perspective of a period in time. When the history is written about the post-Secret Wars, pre-Inhumans vs. X-men era of the X-men comics, no one character will be singled out as the sole symbol of the conflict. However, Storm and the time-displaced Jean Grey are likely  in the top five.

When Extraordinary X-men began under Jeff Lemire, Storm went out of her way to identify Jean Grey as the heart of the X-men. That alone says a lot about the state of the X-men, singling out a time-displaced version of a character that has been dead for over a decade. Oddly enough, it's entirely warranted. Jean Grey is very much an embodiment of the X-men's highest ideals, if only because time travel allows her to skip the many eras of setbacks, retcons, and evil clones.

When the story of Extraordinary X-men begins, both Storm and Jean Grey are reluctant, if not downright hostile, to the idea that they're now the greatest hope for the X-men. Jean is a time-displaced teenager. She has enough on her plate as it stands and not just because of acne. Storm is a reluctant leader who ended up in her role because the world believed, thanks to Emma Frost, that Cyclops is the worst thing to happen to the world since poor wi-fi.

Then, as Extraordinary X-men progresses, they both settle into their roles. They confront the challenges that come with being an inspiration for every generation of X-men. Now, in wake of Inhumans vs. X-men, Storm, Jean Grey, and the rest of their teammates faces a whole new challenge and a whole new era for the X-men as a whole.

Extraordinary X-men #20 acts as a bridge between these eras. The Inhumans/X-men war is over. The entire mutant race doesn't need to hide in a demon-infested realm anymore. Naturally, most in X-Haven are eager to leave for a home where killer robots are more likely than demon attacks. For Storm, however, there's a lingering sense of uncertainty that bothers her. Having lived in a demon realm, being bothered by anything is quite an accomplishment.

It's through Storm's point of view that the uncertainty unfolds. It's through a time-displaced Jean Grey that the X-men confront it. In many ways, it's fitting that that these two characters are the ones tasked with tying up the loose ends of Extraordinary X-men. They are still the main catalyst for the story. They bore most of the burdens throughout the series. Lemire acknowledges the extent of those burdens. However, the story itself doesn't do much to give them greater weight.

The primary plot in Extraordinary X-men #20 actually deals with some unresolved aftermath from Inhumans vs. X-men. In a sense, Lemire addresses a practical issues regarding Emma Frost's hidden agenda, which most of the X-men only recently uncovered. In world where magic and time travel are often used to cover plot holes, this is somewhat refreshing.

It also makes use of some lingering side-plots that have fallen to the wayside in Extraordinary X-men, namely those involving Cerebra and No Girl. Again, these are usually the kinds of side-plots that are first to get overlooked. Lemire's efforts to address them give the story an attention to detail that the X-men comics have lacked, due largely to the constant doom and gloom caused by other characters whose movie rights aren't owned by a rival studio.

Between Jean's efforts and Storm's inner musings, the story in Extraordinary X-men #20 helps make this transition from one era of X-men comics to another feel personal. It tries to do more than just shove the X-men into the next extinction-level plot. It tries to step back and take in the situation. In some respects, they don't step back far enough because they end up fighting killer robots. However, compared to demons, Inhumans, and sterilization, it still counts as an improvement of sorts.

It still makes for a very simple, very basic kind of story. The X-men fighting a host of killer robots, be they Sentinels or discarded Sentinel prototypes, is as classic a plot as any extinction story. This one isn't all that memorable or epic, nor does it try to be. However, it's not the kind of battle that is there just to give the X-men something to blow up. There is a purpose do it. It's a minor purpose, but a purpose none-the-less.

The battle in Extraordinary X-men #20 may be somewhat forgettable, but it doesn't change the underlying situation facing the X-men. They don't have to hide in a demon realm anymore. They're not facing imminent extinction anymore. Given how rare these moments are for the X-men these days, it's an important situation to take in. Storm offers the perspective. Jean Grey offers the catalyst. In the grand scheme of things, it uses all the right ingredients, even if there's not enough of them to make a cake.

What makes the outcome of Extraordinary X-men #20 most satisfying is that, while it does attempt to tie up loose ends, it tries to give the series closure without dropping one too many ominous hints about the next extinction plot the X-men will face. Lemire makes a genuine effort to end the series on an upbeat note. For a series that began with off-panel deaths, sterilization, mutant-hunting death squads, that's quite an undertaking.

Taken as a whole, the end of Extraordinary X-men #20 doesn't give the sense of a complete, satisfying journey. Given the exceedingly bleak circumstances of its beginning, it's hard to go from one extreme to another. To go from the brink of extinction to a friendly baseball game is a journey that requires a lot more than 20 issues and a crossover event. Even if details are lacking, the primary spirit of the X-men narrative is still there. The fact that a series like Extraordinary X-men can end in a friendly baseball game is a testament to the strength of that spirit.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Red Queen Chronicles: The Spy ANNOUNCEMENT!

I have an announcement to make and it involves another sexy side-project. I know I’ve been doing a lot of those lately and for good reason. I’ve found a winning formula. I’ve found something that resonates with a certain set of fans with an appreciation for sexier stories. Who knew stories about an overtly sexual Mary Jane Watson, Emma Frost, and the Hellfire Club could have such great appeal?

I know. That seems so goddamn obvious now. These are two of the sexiest female characters in comics. They look damn good in thongs and they aren’t afraid to wear them. I just needed to find a way to build an awesome story around that, one that provides ample opportunities for sexy situations with a variety of characters. Well, I’ve been building that story since “The New Red Queen.” Thanks to that story, and the great response I got, I’ve created a world where Mary Jane isn’t the only one who gets to maximize her sexiness.

I’ve already begun to expand that world with the “The Red Queen Chronicles: The Weapon.” That was a fairly basic expansion. This is a world with an overtly sexy redheaded woman taking center stage. It was only a matter of time before Wolverine came into the picture. Plus, with the recent release of the Logan movie, what better way to commemorate the occasion than by having him bang a sexy redhead? I think Wolverine fans everywhere can appreciate that sentiment.

Well, I’m ready to continue expanding the world of “The Red Queen Chronicles.” This time, I want to do more than just a basic one-shot where Mary Jane uses her cleavage to get something done. Granted, there will always be a place for that kind of story, but I want to take this next entry in a different direction. Specifically, I want to explore both the present and the past of the world I’ve created. To do that, I’ll need to enlist the help of another sexy redhead. In a world where there are so many, who could possibly add to the ample sex appeal of this series?

Enter the Black Widow. She’s an Avenger, an agent of SHIELD, a master spy, and a star role for Scarlett Johanssen. On top of that, she looks damn good in skin-tight outfits. While she’s never been as overtly sexual as Emma Frost or Mary Jane Watson, I intend to give her a unique opportunity here. It’s also a unique opportunity for me as well because Black Widow is one of those characters I’ve always wanted to work with, but just never found the right story. Well, that story has arrived. That’s why I’m proud to announce “The Red Queen Chronicles: The Spy.”

Do you want to see Natasha Romanov exercise her sexy side? Do you want to see how she has influenced the events of this series? Well, you’ll get your chance soon enough. Unlike the last story, this one will have two parts. That’ll give me more time to explore Black Widow as both a character and an exceedingly sexy redhead. Trust me. I want to make use of that time. By this time next week, you’ll see why it’s worth the wait. Nuff said!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Enemy Within (And Beyond): All-New Wolverine #18

The following is my review of All-New Wolverine #18, which was posted on

There are some stories that just can't be remade in a convincing, compelling fashion. The producers of the now-infamous Ghostbusters remake found this out the hard way. However, it is possible to retell a story in a way that doesn't feel like a new layer of paint on an old car that shouldn't be on the road anymore. Those stories are rare and even then, a retelling of those stories involves a lot of moving parts that need to work together without collapsing into a chaotic mess

The classic Wolverine story, Enemy of the State, may not be nearly as iconic as Ghostbusters, but it captures so much of what makes Wolverine a great character. It effectively jams rusty nails into Wolverine's deepest scars, let's them fester, and builds a story around it. It's a key conflict for Wolverine that gives him much of his depth. He struggles with being a man and a former meat puppet of Weapon X. It's a powerful struggle that his daughter and inheritor of his title, Laura Kinney, has inherited.

As X-23, Laura knows just as much about being a tormented meat puppet as Logan. On top of that, she deals with this on top of being a teenage girl. This makes her uniquely qualified to handle the narrative surrounding Enemy of the State II. Tom Taylor gives her that chance, putting her in a situation where Laura has to confront the meat puppet within her that once made her a living weapon.

He sets high stakes. After apparently killing nearly three dozen innocent people, she finds herself at the top of SHIELD's most wanted list, right up there with cloned Spider-Man villains. She also has to confront old enemies like Kimura, who are intent on reminding her that she's a failed science experiment and not a person. In her mind, she's several layers below a trained pitbull.

These are the moving parts that forge the narrative for Enemy of the State II and All-New Wolverine #18 caps off that narrative with a potent mix of drama, action, plot twists, and exploding bean cans. It's every bit as entertaining as it sounds. Beyond the entertainment value, though, Taylor goes out of his way to capture the most important element of Enemy of the State, which is heart. Those who've seen the Logan movie and wiped away their tears will appreciate what Taylor accomplishes here.

To get to this point, X-23 must overcome some personal demons that have plagued her since her early origin stories in X-23: Innocence Lost. This is perfectly appropriate for the context and grand scheme of the story. Overcoming personal demons for Wolverine is right up there with drinking beer, stabbing Sabretooth, and chasing married women. For X-23, a teenage girl who isn't old enough to drink, it's a much higher priority and one that ensures All-New Wolverine #18 hits with just the right amount of drama.

The biggest demon for X-23 has both a face and a potent weapon. Kimura is to her what Sabretooth is to Logan. She embodies the anchor that keeps her tied to her bloody past. She represents the pain, burdens, and rage that fills her with such dread and anger. Fighting her means much more than just fighting a run-of-the-mill Sentinel. Taylor has this fight involve more than just stabbing though.

The stakes of the battle are already high because Kimura is armed with the trigger scent, the weapon that turns X-23 into the heartless killer who murdered her own mother. It is a burden and a fear that has plagued X-23 since her earliest days in the X-men comics. It's a big part of what drives the narrative throughout Enemy of the State II, having X-23 go on the run and do everything she can to avoid becoming what Kimura wants her to be. This convergence of past fears and present conflicts helps craft a perfectly balanced, deeply satisfying conclusion.

It's also a conclusion that requires X-23 to do things Logan wasn't very good at. He may have been the best at what he did, but coordinating with others was never one of those things and not just because of his propensity to flirt with married women. X-23 shows a greater willingness to work with others, let them in, and share her burdens. It gives a supporting cast like Gabby, Jean Grey, Gambit, Angel, and Tyger Tiger a chance to shine. She's still not the greatest teammate, but compared to Logan, she's a pro.

X-23's supporting cast gives her the resources she needs to overcome the trigger scent and attack Kimura. However, she's still the one who delivers the final blow. Like her predecessor, she makes it very personal and very brutal. Unlike previous battles, though, Kimura can't use the trigger scent as her trump card. She has to face X-23 head on. They have to fight as equals. It makes for a battle that feels organic, brutal, and dramatic.

The added drama also helps ensure the plot twist that emerge in the final conclusion work. As a result, it doesn't feel forced. It doesn't feel like a cop-out. It feels like a genuine, realistic recourse for the narrative. For a story that involves so much running around, stabbing, and snarling, that's a critical ingredient that separates decent stories from savory deserts.

The original Enemy of the State may not be as iconic as other major Wolverine stories like Old Man Logan, if only because it hasn't been the basis for a major movie yet. However, it is an important story that embodies what it means to be Wolverine. All-New X-men #18 and Enemy of the State II embodies that same spirit.

X-23 even goes out of her way to make that clear. She loudly proclaims that she's not just a weapon. She's Laura Kinny. She has a mother, a father, and the title. She is, by every meaningful criteria, Wolverine. Taylor does everything necessary to make this abundantly clear. If anyone has any doubts at this point that Laura is worthy of that title, then they're just being petty.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Friday, March 10, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 6.1: Beyond Top Secret is LIVE!

By now, I hope everyone has had the time to see the latest Wolverine movie. I imagine X-men fans are still recovering from the many emotional moments that movie contained. It truly was the end of an era for the X-men, at least in the world of movies. In some sense, the timing is just right because the X-men Supreme fanfiction series just capped off a major era as well. Now, much like the latest Wolverine movie, the stage is set for a new and uncertain era to begin.

While the world of the last Wolverine movie was dark and desolate, the coming era of X-men Supreme is mired with different complications. This isn’t a case of mutants going extinct or humans hunting them with killer robots. These days, that seems like a strange concept for the X-men, but that’s exactly why I’m choosing this direction for this fanfiction series. It’s not enough for the X-men to fight for survival or what’s left of their future. At some point, they must start building the future that Charles Xavier dreams of building.

That process took a huge turn at conclusion of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. Two major foundations of human/mutant relations, namely the mutant nation of Genosha and the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters, now lay in ruin. The fragile balance that had been evolving since X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution has been completely disrupted. X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide saw a fundamental change in the way the X-men operate and the way Charles Xavier pursues his dream.

This change caused massive upheavals in the team, especially from the likes of Cyclops and Wolverine. Now, the X-men won’t just operate under the guidelines of Xavier’s dream. They’ll be working hand-in-hand with the likes of President Robert Kelly, General Nathan Grimshaw, and Captain Jack Freeman. The X-men are now a wing of the Mutant Security Agency that was established back in X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear. While they have powerful new allies, the implications of that allegiance have many worried.

This left Cyclops and Wolverine to leave the X-men, much to the sorrow of Charles Xavier and the heartbreak of Jean Grey. Now, as Xavier seeks to build on this new foundation, Cyclops and Wolverine prepare to pursue a different vision with a new team, one they’ve dubbed X-Force. X-men Supreme Volume 7 will bring about some major clashes and greater divisions. Friends will become enemies. Teammates will become threats. It will strain the X-men in ways they’ve never endured before.

Before either team can confront these challenges, they must first tie up loose ends and gather supplies. For Charles Xavier and General Grimshaw, that means establishing some element of trust moving forward. For Cyclops, having left the team he dedicated his life to serving, it means reconciling some issues so they don’t hold him back. Having just left his team and his girlfriend, Jean Grey, he’s in a vulnerable place. On top of it all, he just recently learned during the Outer Limits arc that his father, Christopher Summers, is still alive.

There’s a lot for both sides to deal with. There’s a bumpy road ahead for both teams. Charles Xavier and Cyclops have many new challenges to face. However, before they can start on that road, they must first make sure the path behind them is clear. That’s exactly what I hope to accomplish with this giant-sized special. Just as I did with X-men Supreme Issue 5.1: Deception Revelation, I hope to set the tone for the stories to come.

Giant Sized X-men Supreme Issue 6.1: Beyond Top Secret

Like the X-men comics, I hope this giant-sized issue will help get readers caught up and excited for X-men Supreme Volume 7. The next era of this fanfiction series is already in the works and poised to begin in the coming weeks. I hope to make a few announcements down the line. In the meantime, I’m eager to get feedback on this and any other issue of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series.

I understand that emotions are still raw after the latest Wolverine movie. I also understand I left quite a few anxious readers at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. Make no mistake. I do have a larger plan in the works. I intend for that plan to pay off in the long run. In order to make sure that plan is accomplishing what I want it to, it’s critical that I get feedback. Please take the time to leave a comment on this giant-sized issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine and I’m always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!


Thursday, March 9, 2017

A (Not So) Bittersweet End: Inhumans vs. X-men #6

The following is my review of Inhumans vs. X-men #6, which was posted on

Most epic battles are epic because of the skirmishes that led up to it. Ideally, the tension grows and the stakes rise to set up a final showdown wherein both sides think they're Mario and neither side believes they're Bowser. This is what makes battles like Batman vs. Joker, Superman vs. Doomsday, and Deadpool vs. Short-Sighted Fox Producers so meaningful. It's also why the final showdown in Inhumans vs. X-men has everything working against it.

In the case of this latest clash between two superhero teams, the skirmishes are forgettable and the stakes as unbalanced as fight between Juggernaut and a sick puppy. From the events leading up to it, to the tie-in issues that try to add badly-needed depth, Inhumans vs. X-men fights an uphill battle that may as well be upside down. It tries to be epic. It tries to be balanced. It just doesn't have the style, substance, or setup to make it work. To be epic, at this point, would require Onslaught-level power and/or a deal with Mephisto.

Charles Soule and Jeff Lemire may not be willing to call Mephisto, but they still try to make the most of what they've got to work with, which isn't much. Through five issues, the tension is there. The drama is there. There's a genuine effort to mold the conflict into something that feels balanced on both sides.

With Inhumans vs. X-men #6, the proverbial shot clock is running out. The drama, tension, and every other concept that's lacking has to pay off. However, that payoff never arrives in full. It's not a total bust, but it doesn't feel like a worth-while investment either. It's an investment that the Tony Starks and Warren Buffetts of the world would never make in the first place, but it's not one of those investments that bankrupts either side.

The most that can be said about Inhumans vs. X-men #6 is that it ends the conflict. It ends in a way that doesn't make either side looks good. In fact, both sides come off as woefully inept. There are any number of opportunities to avoid or mitigate the conflict. These opportunities are either ignored, glossed over, or fumbled with comic ineptitude. It's an inherent flaw that has plagued the X-men/Inhuman conflict since before the event started and the final showdown that unfolds in this issue does little to resolve that.

That's not to say the conflict is completely without drama. Lemire and Soule do make a concerted effort to make Inhumans vs. X-men #6 feel personal for the characters. This is most apparent with Emma Frost and Medusa. These two characters are, arguably, the primary driving force of the conflict. What they do and the decisions they make help give the struggle the depth it needs to feel like more than just another superhero clash. At a time when superheroes are more likely to fight each other than aliens, killer robots, or Thanos, that's very important.

Medusa vs. Emma Frost doesn't have the same epic undertones elicited by Batman vs. Superman, Captain America vs. Iron Man, or even Wolverine vs. anybody who steals his beer. However, it still feels very personal. Emma Frost makes it personal. She blames the entire Inhuman race for killing Cyclops. She takes it upon herself to exact the kind of vengeance usually reserved for Wolverine. There's no doubting her dedication. At the same time, however, there's no denying the inherent flaw this creates.

In the end, it's also Emma Frost who makes the conflict feel so forced. The main driving force of the Inhuman/mutant clash is supposed to be the Terrigen Mists, which is poisoning mutants all over the world. That issue gets resolved with a level of ease that feels downright inane and not just because Moon Girl succeeds where Beast, Forge, and every genius mind in New Attilan fail. It ends up feeling like a secondary concern, a formality has to happen before Emma Frost can fight Medusa.

By making the Terrigen Mists so trivial, it underscores everything motivating the X-men in this conflict. On top of that, they don't even get to make the decision that eliminates the threat of the mists once and for all. The Inhumans are the ones that do that. As soon as Medusa finds out that the mists will make the world uninhabitable to mutants, she doesn't even hesitate. She jumps at the chance to remove the mists from the atmosphere.

There's no argument with Storm. There's no fight with Emma Frost. Old Man Logan doesn't even need to insult her. She just learns something that the X-men could've easily told her in a simple text message and does the right thing. It makes the entire Inhuman/mutant conflict seem hallow. The fact that all anyone had to do was tell Medusa that the mists were about to exterminate an entire species makes every struggle in Inhumans vs. X-men #6, personal or otherwise, seem unnecessary.

In the grand scheme of things, neither the Inhumans nor the X-men come off as winners in Inhumans vs. X-men. They don't come off as losers either. The X-men do achieve their goal. The Terrigen Mists are gone. Mutants no longer have to worry about being gassed to death. They don't even need the Scarlet Witch to lose her mind again or cast some fancy spell to make it happen. That means they don't have to live in demon realms anymore for their own safety.

The Inhumans don't come off as losers either. Thanks to Medusa's hard choices, they come off as heroic and understanding. They make a sacrifice to prevent genocide. It does come at a cost, but New Attilan is still intact. No Inhumans died or suffered horribly. There's nothing stopping them from thriving again, albeit under different circumstances. Compared to being gassed to death, those circumstances aren't too bad. In that sense, it's still abundantly clear which side has its movie rights owned by Disney and which side does not.

With respect to creating a meaningful superhero clash, Lemire and Soule just don't have the ingredients to make Inhumans vs. X-men as epic as others before it. The circumstances, drama, and character motivations just aren't there. They are still able to make the most of it. Some of the flaws are inescapable. Others are just ignored. In the end, the resolution just can't be as epic as it needs to be. No amount of psychic manipulation from Emma Frost can change that.

Final Score: 5 out of 10

Friday, March 3, 2017

Giant-Sized X-men Supreme Issue 6.1: Beyond Top Secret PREVIEW!

For most of X-men Supreme’s history, there has been a recurring theme of sorts. I started this fanfiction series because I was dissatisfied with the direction of the X-men comics and wanted to give an outlet to other X-men fans. As X-men Supreme has evolved, it has often been the case that when things are looking bleak in the X-men comics, things are looking more promising in this fanfiction series.

When the X-men comics were bogged down with schisms and secret kill squads, the X-men Supreme fanfiction series was focusing on more traditional X-men stories like battling Magneto in Overlord, fighting a malevolent entity in the Cambrian Explosion, and exploring Wolverine’s mysterious history in The Lotus and the Warrior. X-men Supreme has managed to do all of this and more without resorting to time travel, clones, or major retcons. Personally, I take pride in that. I feel it helps X-men Supreme stand out in a way that the X-men comics just can’t at this point.

However, the current situation in the X-men comics is changing. On top of that, the X-men Supreme fanfiction series just underwent its biggest upheaval to date. The events of X-men Supreme issue 148: New Divide capped off X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation with some devastating decisions. Charles Xavier has effectively restructured the X-men, integrating them into General Grimshaw and President Kelly’s newly-minted Mutant Monitoring Initiative. The dream, as the X-men have known it since this fanfiction series has begun, has changed. Some, such as Cyclops and Wolverine, believe that Charles Xavier has abandoned his dream altogether in the face of fear and uncertainty.

Now, the X-men are divided. Friends have abandoned one another. Relationships, including that of Cyclops and Jean Grey, have been shaken to their core. It is a difficult, tenuous time for the X-men in this fanfiction series. Conversely, things are looking far less dire in the X-men comics. Their latest extinction plot is about to end. The X-men, and the mutant race as a whole, is on the road to recovery. Old allies, like Kitty Pryde, are returning. The vision of Charles Xavier and the X-men is once again starting to guide them again.

It puts X-men Supreme in an odd position because moving forward, the X-men will be divided. There will be conflict between two teams, namely the X-men and the Cyclops-led X-Force. X-men Supreme Volume 7 is going to have plenty of tension and conflict, the likes of which the X-men comics are moving away from. It may be an odd position, but it’s one I intend to explore in a compelling way.

X-men Supreme Volume 7 is already in the works. I have a vision for how it will play out. I have every intention of seeing it through. Before I begin that vision, however, I’ve decided that the time is right to do another one of my point-one issues to help set the stage for this new era in X-men Supreme.

Like the point one issues that Marvel has done before, these are self-contained stories that act as jumping-on points and transitions. I’ve done several to date. Some, like X-men Supreme Issue 5.1: Deception Revelation, offered important insight into ongoing stories. Others, like X-men Supreme 3.1: Sin City Shenanigans, were just fun asides. For this one, however, it’s going to be serious.

Before X-men Supreme Volume 7 gets going, I’m going to revisit another plot that has been brewing since The Good, The Bad, and the Sinister. With Cyclops about to begin a new mission with X-Force, he’s in a vulnerable state. Naturally, he reaches out to his father, whom he just learned is still alive after the events of Outer Limits. Now, just before he embarks on this new mission, he gets in touch with him and learns a secret that has remained hidden for years. It is entitled X-men Supreme 6.1: Beyond Top Secret and it should get X-men fans excited about X-men Supreme Volume 7. As always, I’ve prepared a preview for this extra-sized, extra-awesome entry of X-men Supreme.

“We’re just about ready, Agent Brand,” said the top engineer, “The lab area is clear and we’re ready to lower the psychic dampeners on your order.”

“Is the facility sealed on every other end?” asked Agent Brand as she looked out over the research area.

“We’re officially in lockdown,” said her chief security officer, “It’s already raising a few red flags at the Pentagon. I don’t think they’ll appreciate us not clearing this experiment beforehand.”

“I’ll handle anyone whose feathers get ruffled. Just make sure that we don’t have a repeat of what happened on Genosha,” said General Grimshaw.

“For the record, I’m still in a position to detain the X-men over that affair,” Agent Brand reminded, “Xavier better not give me a reason to execute that authority.”

“I know this goes against your nature, Agent Brand. But cut the good Professor some slack. He’s putting himself in a very dangerous position. You may not respect his vision, but you have to respect the man’s bravado.”

Agent Brand remained skeptical. There were way too many ways that this could backfire. She and General Grimshaw stood behind several inches of concussion proof glass on the main observation deck, which stood a good two and a half stories above the main level. It allowed them to completely monitor the activity below. Charles Xavier was almost ready and the time had come to see if he could be as valuable as they hoped.

Within the main research area, Xavier stood a mere ten feet away from the alien ship. Behind him and surrounding the perimeter were two squads of masked MPs. They all had their weapons drawn in preparation for any unforeseen threats. Captain Freeman stood with them, acting as the squad leader for this bold experiment. Having never been a science buff, he maintained a strict sense of indifference to this ordeal.

“Are all these guns really necessary?” questioned Professor Xavier, “I get the impression that nobody here trusts me and given recent events, I find that troubling.”

“I doubt it’s just you, Xavier. It’s the alien ship that’s the real x-factor here,” said Captain Freeman, “I’m pretty sure that everyone here has seen the movie Independence Day.”

“Which movie was that again?”

“The one where guns came in handy when unruly aliens were in a confined space. If you’re lucky they won’t be necessary.”

“I try not to rely on luck in my line of work,” said Xavier, “I just worry that expecting the worst does little to help the odds.”

Captain Freeman signaled the MPs to assume a fire-ready position. Professor Xavier wasn’t going to convince him or anyone to relax their guard. Not when alien threats were involved. Given his experience with the Shi’ar, that may not be an unreasonable approach. He remained poised under these unfriendly circumstances as he waited for the go-ahead from Agent Brand. After a final check from Captain Freeman to ensure that the lab was sealed and all non-MPs were behind sealed doors, he signaled the observation deck.

“Are you ready down there, Professor? Last chance for a bathroom break or second thoughts,” said Agent Brand through a speaker system.

“I’m ready if you’re willing,” said Professor Xavier confidently.

“Then good luck and for all our sake, don’t make me regret this,” said Agent Brand in her usual coarse tone, “Lowering the psychic dampeners in 5...4...3...2...1.”

There was a slight flicker from the lights as the facility’s elaborate psychic defenses were disabled. Professor Xavier picked up on it almost immediately. He sensed the barriers preventing his mind from utilizing his telepathy weaken. It created tension throughout the lab, knowing that the world’s most powerful psychic was now unhindered. Xavier made no effort to alleviate those concerns. His sole focus was the alien ship. Now that he could use his powers, he could begin the experiment.

“It’s just as I suspected. There is indeed a psychic signature emulating from this ship,” said the Professor as he cautiously approached the vessel.

“Does that mean there’s something alive in there? If so, it would be good to know if it was bulletproof,” said Captain Freeman.

“I’ve yet to determine if it’s the ship’s inhabitants or the ship itself,” he said, “I’ll need to probe a little harder to uncover the truth.”

Under the careful watch of many, Professor Xavier placed one hand on the ship and the other on his temple. He closed his eyes and began a psychic probe. He was immediately struck by the level of psychic clutter. The damage to the ship seemed to extend to the sentience. It was as if it had been wounded on a psychic level as well as a physical level. That damage led Xavier through a system that was still intact. As he began to access it, this ship that had been dormant for over 60 year became active.

“Agent Brand, we’re detecting some significant energy readings from the ship,” said a SWORD researcher that was monitoring the experiment.

“We have working eyes last I checked. Tell us something a 1st grader can’t readily observe,” said Agent Brand.

“Our instruments can’t make sense of it yet, but Xavier definitely flipped a switch of sorts,” said another female SWORD researcher, “You know those computer-like components that we could never get to work? Well apparently, they’re working now.”

“They’re doing more than just working,” said one of the SWORD technicians in a nervous tone, “They appear to be rebooting the whole ship! And not very smoothly from the looks of it!”

Excitement quickly turned to tension as the activity from the ship grew more ominous. Lights along the edges activated. They flickered at first, indicating that the systems on the ship weren’t fully intact. Along with the lights came the distinct hum of the ship’s power source. It was a source that the researchers had never been able to understand and the energy it radiated defied what their instruments could detect. While Captain Freeman and the MPs remained vigilant, Professor Xavier remained focused. He continued focusing his powers for nearly ten minutes, trying to reach whatever sentience was within this ship.

Then the activity took an unexpected turn. As the lights along the rim of the craft continued to flicker, the exotic propulsion system along the bottom of the ship was activated. It didn’t appear to be by design either. Three distinct hemispheres erupted in a burst of yellow light. This caused ship to levitate slightly and sway. At this point Xavier had to halt his probe and step back. From the looks of it, the ship was malfunctioning in major way.

“Oh no…this is exactly what I hoped to avoid!” the Professor dreaded.

“Whatever you did, you better undo it!” warned Captain Freeman as he stood beside him apprehensively.

“That’s exactly what the ship is trying to do! It appears as though the ship is more damaged than I anticipated!”

“What did you expect?! We already told you this thing crashed!”

“I’m not talking about the damage done by the crash.”

“You mean crashing doesn’t do enough damage to alien technology?!” exclaimed the mutant soldier.

“From what I sensed, this ship was badly damaged before it crashed.”

Captain Freeman was getting that sinking feeling that every soldier experienced just before a battle broke out. He and Professor Xavier continued to back away from the hovering ship. The rest of the MPs nervously held their ground, gripping their guns more intently than before. Something was clearly wrong with this ship and they were right in the crossfire.

Up in the observation deck, General Grimshaw and Agent Brand shared their trepidation. Many of the researchers were either watching in amazement or scrambling to make sense of the data. Professor Xavier had definitely stumbled onto something and it was clearly very volatile.

“What the hell is going on down there?!” exclaimed Agent Brand, “Somebody tell me something smart or I’ll start making assumptions!”

“Uh...well remember that energy we mentioned earlier?” said one of the researchers, “Well apparently, the ship had some kind of system that could stabilize it.”

“Do I need to give a damn about the nuts and bolts?” she asked.

“All you really need to know is that system is malfunctioning,” said another SWORD technician, “And it isn’t a result of the crash either. These systems are failing internally!”

“What does that mean for us?” asked General Grimshaw, now deeply concerned about the well being of Xavier and the MPs.

“We aren’t entirely sure, but if I were to make an educated guess I would say that when Xavier activated that reboot we mentioned the system crashed,” explained another senior researcher as best he could, “Based on these readings, it loosely resembles a computer that was crippled by a virus trying to boot up.”

“So the ship is crippled. Big deal,” Agent Brand surmised, “So why does it look like a busted up Chevy with a blown out engine?”

“That’s where the data gets more disturbing, I’m afraid,” the senior researcher continued, “Remember those compartments we couldn’t open? Well I don’t think they were meant to be opened. The damage to the system didn’t seem to originate from the crash. It came from those compartments!”

“So then what the hell could be in those compartments?” pondered General Grimshaw.

“I don’t know, but if Xavier is right then it may be the reason why this ship crashed!”

The possibilities were too disturbing to contemplate. Luckily or unluckily, they wouldn’t have to. As they continued watching the scene unfold, they heard a series of loud clangs from inside the ship. They were so loud and forceful that they caused dents to form in the hull of the ship. Something was definitely trying to escape.

X-men Supreme Volume 7 will be a different kind of X-men story for this fanfiction series. It’ll be different at a time when the X-men comics are returning to their roots. It’s an inverted dynamic of sorts, but one I’m determined to make work. It’s going to be a challenge, but I won’t let that stop me from making X-men Supreme as awesome as it can possibly be. As I confront this new challenge, it’s still very important that I continue to get feedback. So please take the time to tell me what you think of X-men Supreme. Whether it’s praise, dread, fear, or animosity, I want to hear it. Either contact me directly or post it directly in the issues. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Aspirations For Inspiration: Champions #6

The following is my review of Champions #6, which was posted on

Seeking to inspire others to do good is one of the most fundamental acts of heroism that any superhero can do. Superman inspires by embodying an ideal for humanity to aspire towards. Captain America inspires by embodying the patriotic spirit that emboldens and strengthens an entire nation. Deadpool inspires by embodying the power of tacos and machine guns. These are among the most basic traits of a hero and after Civil War II, the entire Marvel universe needs a refresher course.

That's what Mark Waid and Hamberto Ramos are doing with Champions, getting back to basic and showing the rest of Marvel's superhero community that there are better ways to do good and they don't require superhero civil wars. Ms. Marvel, Nova, Spider-Man, Cyclops, Hulk, and Viv Vision are all uniquely qualified to teach this lesson in that they're young, idealistic, and haven't been revealed as Skrulls or Hydra agents yet. Beyond being diverse, coming from many different backgrounds and even different time periods, they are essentially a disaffected generation that sees what's happening with established heroes and think there's room for improvement.

It's a common spirit that pervades inexperienced youth. They see the flaws of the older generation and think they can do better, but the cast of Champions accomplish much more than any hippie protest or online petition. They embody a spirit often gets muted by politics, bureaucracy, or one too many retcons. This eclectic cast of young heroes aren't quite that jaded just yet, if only because they haven't dealt with SHIELD or Maria Hill enough.

The first several issues of Champions show this diverse cast coming together and establishing a standard for how they conduct themselves as heroes. That standard proves quite effective, leading to some meaningful victories and a kiss involving the Hulk. However, as often happens with many efforts involving ambitious youth, they encounter a few challenges and Champions #6 establishes the scope of those challenges, complete with relevant social commentary.

Now it's debatable how important these undertones are to the underlying themes of the series. There are any number of rants, tirades, and bemoaning that can be levied against a series that unambiguously reflects a particular political affiliation. Any comic that risks being vocal about any relevant issue risks agitating a world that would turn Superman into a Nazi if he says the wrong thing in the wrong context. That's the power of hashtags, phony outrage, and too much free time.

Regardless of how anyone may feel about social commentary in a comic book, Champions #6 shows that a certain level of social appeal can go a long way. Waid and Ramos make it a point to show how the Champions have influenced the world as a whole. They demonstrate how the Champions have created an entire social movement for all the right reasons with all the right impacts.

The Champions aren't just saving the day from monsters, human traffickers, and internet trolls. They're inspiring others to get up, embrace the Champion's principles, and do something. Given how much it takes to drag people away from their cell phones and jobs, that's quite an accomplishment.

Given how detached other superhero teams have become from the people at large, such an impact carries a great deal of weight for the greater Marvel universe. If a bunch of teenagers, one of which is a robot and another of which is a time traveler, can have this kind of positive impact, then those with helicarriers and space stations have no excuse.

Beyond that impact, though, the story in Champions #6 is just as much about the unintended backlash to this new superhero team as it is their success. The team is still coming together and Waid gives them a chance to show that they're still teenagers in addition to being heroes. Having them train through a game of paintball makes for a fun, light-hearted tone that even those who whine about the book's social commentary can appreciate.

From the perspective of the larger narrative, this kind of team activity doesn't raise the stakes or heighten the drama. However, it does flesh out the various personalities on the team and shows how they interact. Despite the diversity, they function as well as any group of teenagers armed with superpowers and paintball guns. They're not necessarily a dysfunctional family, but they're not the Fantastic Four either.

Those more light-hearted elements get balanced out when Waid explores the first major backlash that the Champions inspire. Such a backlash is always bound to happen and most teenagers have to learn the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished in the real world. In this case, the punishment hardly fits the deed because the Champions have no way of knowing how those with greater authority than a bunch of teenagers opt to react to their impact.

This is where the Freelancers come in. They are, in essence, the counter-punch to the movement that Champions have inspired. Much of Champions #6 involves introducing this team and establishing how they're going to undermine everything the Champions have accomplished. Like the Champions, they're a bunch of jaded teenagers with superpowers. Unlike the Champions, however, they care less about social commentary and more about their bank statement.

Waid reveals this in a somewhat elaborate manner. At first, the Freelancers give the impression that they're just a bit less ethical than the Champions. By the end, though, they make clear that they'll gladly rub elbows with big oil companies, Hydra agents, and tobacco lobbyists to improve their living standards. They care less about being a hero and more about making the most money with the least amount of effort and/or ethical constraints.

In the context of the major themes surrounding Champions, the Freelancers are the perfect adversaries. Waid makes this abundantly clear in Champions #6. However, this clarity doesn't come with any larger plot developments. A paintball game of super-powered teenagers is fun, but does little to expand their story. The only ones who get any real progression are the Freelancers and while their mission is fairly clear, their respective personalities are under-developed and overly forgettable.

Champions #6 still accomplishes and important feat for the greater narrative. It establishes what the Champions are up against and how their new movement of less civil wars and more heroics is creating an impact. Waid and Ramos to mix that impact with the fun of a paintball game. While the entertainment value of paintball is beyond dispute, the larger implications of the Champions' story remains underdeveloped and unresolved.

Final Score: 6 out of 10