Friday, September 22, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 157: Drug War Part 3 is LIVE!


Sometimes, heroes like the X-men have to overcome bad situations in order to defeat a powerful foe. They’ve done it many times before throughout the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. They took down D’ken in the Outer Limits arc, Sinister in The Good, The Bad, and the Sinister, and Magneto in both Overlord and Uprising. Like all great heroes, the X-men find ways to rise to the occasion. Then, there are other times when the situations don’t just negatively affect them. They affect their enemies as well.

In the Drug War arc, the X-men are facing an enemy in Sebastian Shaw who leaves nothing to chance. After getting defeated, and impaled by Wolverine, in the Phoenix Saga, he’s a lot more cautious these days when it comes to fighting the X-men. Despite uncovering his plot in X-men Supreme Issue 154: Reaching Out with Mutant Growth Hormone, the X-men were already way behind the curve by the time they mobilized. Some of that is due to the X-men being divided after the events of X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide. Most of it, though, has more to do with Shaw’s cunning.

Right up into the previous issue of the Drug War arc, he seemed to have both the X-men and X-Force defeated. He even managed to turn Jubilee, who Sage tried to send in as a spy, into an enemy by dosing her with MGH. Between her and his allies in the Wyngarde sisters, he seems to have all the cards. Charles Xavier, Generation Grimshaw, and President Kelly can’t stop. Cyclops and his covert team, X-Force, can’t stop him. He had every opportunity to take this fanfiction series down a dark new road.

Then, the situation turned. A figure that X-men fans should recognize well, especially Wolverine fans, showed up and turned the tide against Shaw. His name is Daken. Who he is in the X-men comics is somewhat different than what he is in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, but there’s one key similarity. When he shows up, situations get messy and sometimes in a very literal way. That’s what the X-men, X-Force, and Sebastian Shaw are about to face.

His arrival is not as random as it seems. Daken is actually part of a plot that I’ve had brewing in the background for quite some time, going all the way back to events in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truth. He’s part of a story that can only have the biggest possible impact when Charles Xavier, Wolverine, and the X-men are at their most divided. The conclusion of the Drug War arc will set the stage. It will also add a major complication to the ongoing efforts of X-Force and the X-men. It’s hard enough dealing with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative when they just have corrupt businessmen like Sebastian Shaw to deal with. It’s quite another when they’re dealing with forces that involve Daken.

Wolverine’s son, the rise of Mutant Growth Hormone, and the impact it will have on the X-men and X-Force alike are just starting to unfold. The situation isn’t just going to get more complicated. It’s going to get personal. The Drug War arc won’t just mark a turning point. It’ll act as a catalyst for a much larger conflict that’s been waiting to pounce. The scope of that conflict should become somewhat clearer at the end of the issue.

X-men Supreme Issue 157: Drug War Part 3

So far, X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided has two arcs under its belt. Volatility Sensibility and Drug War each tested the divided X-men in ways they’ve yet to experience in this fanfiction series. It’s a different set of conflicts, even compared to those in the X-men comics. While X-men Supreme may be going in different directions, my commitment to making it awesome remains the same.

As always, I encourage everyone to provide feedback so I can be certain that this fanfiction series is sufficiently awesome. I especially need that feedback after a major arc like this. With Daken arriving soon, that level of awesome needs to be there. Either contact me directly or try to post it in the comments section. Either is fine. All support I get for X-men Supreme is supremely appreciated, regardless of how positive or negative it is. Thank you very much to all those who have taken the time to provide feedback. From the bottom of my hearts, I appreciate that. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Idols, Ideals, and Reminders: Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1

The following is my review of Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Whenever a fan meets their icon, there's usually an unpleasant moment when the fan makes a stunning realization. Their idol, for all the hopes and dreams they embody, is still human. They make mistakes, they get hurt, and they become corrupted by a situation. For overly passionate fans, it can be pretty devastating, finding out that an idol has those flaws. It's often a harsh lesson in the real world, which tends to crush idealism the same way the Hulk crushes compact cars.

Since her inception, one Kamala Khan's biggest appeals is that she's an unapologetic superhero fangirl. She sees superheroes through the same rosy prism as kids and fans. To her, they are icons who embody certain ideals. Before she gets her powers and dons the title of Ms. Marvel, that perspective is pure and untainted by the harsh circumstances of life. Then, she gets her powers and Civil War II happens. Suddenly, her idol isn't very heroic anymore. If anything, she's too human to wield that title.

Kamala's world is shaken, but not broken. She still calls herself Ms. Marvel. She still tries to be the kind of hero she idolizes. In both her solo series and books like Champions, those efforts tends to yield mixed results most of the time. It seems every battle she faces brings her that much closer to losing that sense of idealism that defines her character.

That's what makes Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1 so timely and relevant. It gives G. Willow Wilson a chance to reconnect Kamala with a younger, less compromised version of Carol Danvers. She gets to interact with a version of her idol that is not compromised by the events of Civil War II. It's her chance to re-learn and possibly re-define her understanding of a hero.

Wilson puts her in a position to do that and then some. Kamala, whose perspective acts as both necessary narration and witty banter, finds herself in a similar position as other characters who taken part in Marvel Generations. Through the Vanishing Point, she ends up in the past during a time when Carol Danvers is on nobody's list to headline a major crossover event. She's still Ms. Marvel, a hero who is still trying to prove that she belongs on the same level as Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and everyone else who goes onto be part of a billion-dollar movie franchise.

Whether by chance or McGuffin-style workings of the Vanishing Point, Kamala finds herself joining Carol in this effort and not just in terms of fighting alien invaders. Through a setup that doesn't entirely make sense, but still works, she becomes an intern at Woman Magazine where Carol works. It's a unique period in Carol's story it's a time when she tries to build more of a civilian life, like the Peter Parkers of the world. While it may be a doomed effort to anyone with alien DNA, it's an important context for both Kamala and the story of Ms. Marvel, as a whole.

In a sense, it shows Carol trying to do what female superheroes and real women alike struggle to do. She's trying to have it all, being both Ms. Marvel and Carol Danvers. It's a struggle Kamala herself deals with every other issue and Wilson rarely lets her catch her breath. It's also a struggle that Carol doesn't really deal with as Captain Marvel, but that struggle still shapes her story. Making Kamala, the future Ms. Marvel, a part of that story gives it even greater meaning.

Unlike some of the other stories that unfold in Marvel Generations, Wilson takes a more personal approach to Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1. It's not just about Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers fighting alien invaders and working with J. Jonah Jameson without going insane. The story of Kamala sharing her perspective with Carol and seeing her idol outside the context of Civil War II makes the story feel personal. It effectively circumvents the tension between the two characters in the present and shows that they both share a legacy.

In terms of Kamala's personal story, it's a critical insight. It doesn't necessarily re-define her understanding of what it means to be Ms. Marvel as it does remind her of why that title matters to her. Throughout the story, her thoughts reveal her various sentiments towards Carol Danvers. She's still an icon in her eyes, but she doesn't ignore how she has been functioning without her idol since Civil War II. That doesn't stop her from joining her struggle.

Being part of that struggle helps Kamala overlook some of the things that shattered her idealistic view of Carol Danvers. In a sense, that's a major oversight and a missed opportunity. By not digging deeper into the reasons why Kamala distances herself from her idol, the story in Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1 doesn't accomplish as much as it could have. It also mutes the potential drama that helped make other iterations of Marvel Generations so meaningful.

In addition, it doesn't help that the flow of the narrative is a bit messy at times. There's a couple instances where there are no obvious transitions from one scene to another. On one panel, Kamala walking the streets of Midtown Manhattan. The next, she's at the Daily Bugle being yelled at by J. Jonah Jameson. Granted, Jameson rarely needs a transition to yell at someone, but it makes the story feel choppy at times. Even with Paolo Villanelli's vibrant art that highlights Ms. Marvel's distinct style, the story never comes off as very concise.

It still manages to accomplish something important for Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers' story. It effectively ties their ongoing struggles with one another. Carol is trying to have it all as both Carol Danvers and Ms. Marvel. Kamala is doing the same thing in her time. It's an ongoing struggle for both, but working together in Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1 gives them both some needed perspective. They even earn praise from J. Jonah Jameson along the way and in the context of the greater Marvel universe, such an accomplishment ranks right up there with beating Thanos.


Final Score: 6 out of 10

Friday, September 15, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 157: Drug War Part 3 PREVIEW!


It’s one thing for the X-men to battle a cunning enemy like Sebastian Shaw when they’re at full strength. It’s quite another when they have to fight that battle when divided. X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided began by establishing the extent of that division. This fanfiction series took a fateful turn in X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide. The team that had been united against the likes of Sinister, Magneto, and the entire Shi’ar Empire is fractured. Charles Xavier’s bold, but controversial efforts with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative triggered it. Now, both the X-men and X-Force are feeling the full impact.

The struggles in Volatility Sensibility were just a precursor. Sebastian Shaw, who has done plenty to leave his mark on this fanfiction series going back to the Phoenix Saga, is taking full advantage in the divisions of the X-men and the reservations many still have with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. One mutant, Beak, already fell victim to his influence in X-men Supreme Issue 153: Revolting Youth. Now, Jubilee and the Five Lights, characters that some X-men fans remember well, take it a step further.

The Drug War arc is the first real instance where Charles Xavier and his X-men deal with one of their major enemies exploiting the situation created by the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It was only a matter of time. Bold actions always triggers bolder reactions. The X-men experienced that after the election of President Kelly and the arrival of General Grimshaw. However, they’ve never encountered a battle like this. What happens may very well determine the fate of the initiative, the X-men, and mutants, as a whole.

There have already been plenty of complications, some of which will have a major influence on future events within this fanfiction series. If you read the end of X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2, you already know what and who I’m talking about. It has already disrupted Sebastian Shaw’s plans. It’s about to disrupt much more than that. Jubilee and the Five Lights are still under his influence. Chimera still has X-Force pinned down. There’s still the issue of Mutant Growth Hormone. Like dangerous drugs in the real world, it’s a problem that can’t be uncreated.

There’s only one issue left in the Drug War arc. It’s the biggest arc in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided to date. It’ll also mark the first turning point in the struggle between the X-men and X-Force. If you want to know where this fanfiction series is heading, this is an issue you don’t want to miss. As always, I’ve prepared a preview of this defining battle that will shape the course of X-men Supreme.

“So c-c-cold. Even for a R-R-Russian,” grunted Colossus as he tried to divert Idie’s ice blast.

“Go, Teon! Break him!” urged Idie.

“FIGHT!” roared Teon as he moved in and attacked with a punishing right cross.

Colossus went up to block the attack. This time when Teon struck his arm, he felt a distinct snap. Even through his metal skin, the bones and flesh beneath broke in a way that put him in a world of pain.

“ARRRRGGGHHHHH!” exclaimed the Russian.

“My heavens…she made his metal skin brittle,” gasped Beast, who was trying to escape Kenji’s tentacles, “Hang on, my friend! I will assist you!”

“You’ll watch him suffer and hate every moment of it,” seethed Kenji.

Beast had been using his agility to avoid being completely smothered like Rogue and Storm. Upon seeing Colossus’s injury, he attempted to leap out of his swarm of tentacle appendages completely. That ended up being a poor decision.

Before he was even a few feet off the ground, Kenji’s tentacles slithered around his feet and pulled him back. Beast ended up falling flat on his face, allowing Kenji to completely encase him. Beast could only watch as Colossus writhed under Teon and Idie’s menacing presence. He was then pulled up into the air so that he was suspended next to Rogue and Storm.

“Welcome to the club, Beast. Uncomfortable yet?” said Rogue dryly with only her face showing through the tentacles.

“It’s not the most awkward position I’ve been in, but it’s close,” grunted Beast as more of Kenji’s tentacles wrapped around him.

“Any chance you could lend a hand to myself or Colossus, Storm?” asked Beast, “I know you’re in a tight spot, but we could use some help from Mother Nature.”

“I’m…trying,” grunted Storm, who was very short of breath, “This boy…not letting me concentrate. Can’t-mmf!”

Storm was silenced by one of Kenji’s tentacles shoving itself right into her mouth. It rendered her even less inclined to summon any help from the weather. It was Kenji’s way of proving that he was in control.

“My collection is growing,” seethed Kenji from within his oversized humanoid form, “Once I have your friends, I shall make your deaths my greatest masterpiece!”

“Hnn…if this is your brand of art, you’re even sicker than you look,” grunted Rogue.

“Belittling our adversaries is only making it worse, Rogue,” said Beast as he felt the tentacles around him tighten.

“Errr! Got a better idea?” said Rogue, getting short of breath as well, “Where in the heck is Captain Freeman? Ah thought he-mmf!”

Rogue was silenced just as Storm had been. Kenji forced one of his tentacles into her mouth to shut her up, leaving her at his mercy.

“No ideas will save you now,” scoffed Kenji, “We are the Lights of the Inner Circle! We are linked by a power you cannot possibly understand! You can never hope to…”

“KENJI LOOK OUT!”

The Japanese mutant was cut off by an unexpected cry from above. Kenji was so focused on keeping Beast, Rogue, and Storm restrained that he didn’t notice an ominous shadow passing over him. When he looked up, he saw the large figure of Laurie spiraling out of control.

On her back was Captain Freeman, who was using the dragonfly-like wings she formed to direct her chaotic descent. He directed her right into the chest of the oversized creature Kenji had created. That was also the area where Kenji himself resided. From within this hulking monstrosity, his eyes widened as Laurie crashed into him head on.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” they both yelled out.

The impact that followed caused much of Kenji’s large form to scatter like wet mud. The humanoid figure he form dissolved as his amorphous form mixed with Laurie’s. As they tumbled roughly to the ground, the many tentacles Kenji formed dissolved. That freed Rogue, Storm, and Beast from their confines. As they fell to the ground, Captain Freeman was there to meet up with them. Having leapt off Laurie’s back before she and Kenji collided, he rushed to their aid.

“Sorry I’m late guys. That crazy fish girl was a fighter,” said Captain Freeman as he and Beast helped Storm stay upright.

“No worries, Captain. Your timing was impeccable,” said Beast.

“I would have preferred it to be a few moments earlier,” said Storm, still coughing up pieces of dissolved tentacle.

“I’ll work on that for future missions,” assured the Green Beret, “But first, I plan on ending this mission on a high note!”

The mutant soldier earned some much-needed credibility with this latest stunt. Storm and Beast were more inclined to believe him. However, these six mutants weren’t going to make it easy for him.

“The only thing you’ll end is your life!” seethed Jubilee,  now flying towards them at high speeds, “I’ll make you wish Kenji had crushed you!”

In her blind rage, Jubilee formed another glowing ball of energy in her hands. Without taking careful aim, she unleashed it right towards them. Captain Freeman prepared to shield Storm and Beast with his adaptive form. This time, though, he didn’t have to.

Rogue came rushing in from the side and stepped in front of the incoming blast. But instead of just absorbing it, she punched it with her enhanced strength. That caused the ball of energy to fly right back towards Jubilee. Since she was going so fast, she couldn’t avoid it. When it struck, it sent her flying in the other direction.

“What the-UNGH!” she exclaimed.

“Sorry Ah had to do that Jubes, but that pal of yours left a nasty taste in mah mouth. Ah had to take it out on someone,” said Rogue as she rubbed her fist.

“Thanks, Rogue. It’s good to know you’re still pissed off enough to fight,” said Captain Freeman with a grin.

“Ah don’t care if it is Jubilee and a bunch of kids. They’re playmates with Shaw. Someone’s gotta give them a timeout,” she said strongly.

Now more emboldened they turned their attention to Gabriel, Idie, and Teon. The sudden shift in the battle hadn’t gone unnoticed, either. The X-men weren’t as disorganized or inept as they expected. They continued undermining the Inner Circle. This could not stand. Their king and queen wouldn’t allow it.


There’s a lot I want to accomplish with the Drug War arc. The big reveal at the end of X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2 has already set the stage for the next major upheaval in this fanfiction series. Given the events and twists of the recent X-men comics, I think the timing is perfect. Some of that wasn’t planned, on my part, but I have tweaked some of those plans accordingly for reasons I hope will become obvious.

X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided is the most ambitious entry of this fanfiction series to date. I knew before I wrote the first issue that I was going to be upsetting some X-men fans with my decisions. I’ve heard some of those concerns in the feedback that I’ve gotten. To those readers, I urge you to trust my vision. There is a payoff and it will come. Even before that point, though, I need plenty of feedback to ensure that payoff is as awesome as it can possibly be. Either contact me directly with your comments or ignore the spam and post your comments directly in the issue. Either way is fine, but contacting me will probably be more efficient for now. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Titles, Legacies, and Basics: Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell #1

The following is my review of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


The story of one hero taking on the mantle of another is one of the most controversial stories that can be told, albeit for all the wrong reasons. No matter how great or terrible that story actually is, there will always be a certain contingent of fans who are ardent traditionalist. To them, Batman must always be Bruce Wayne. Steve Rogers must always be Captain America. Peter Parker must always be Spider-Man, preferably a version not foolish enough to make deals with Mephisto.

There's nothing anyone can do to placate those fans, short of ending the story permanently and letting them fume in their own little world of utopian nostalgia. Since that's not a very interesting story, Marvel Generations is doing the next best thing by adding depth and connections between the heroes of the past and the heroes of the present. The titles may be the same, but the characters, context, and narrative are very different. The only thing that doesn't change is the incessant whining by the ardent traditionalists still arguing why Gwen Stacy should come back.

Regardless of how ardent certain fans may be, most tend to agree that certain characters can benefit from that added depth more than others. At the moment, few characters are need of that depth more than Carol Danvers. Through the masterful efforts of writers like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Carol ascends to a level of prominence that makes her the closest thing Marvel has to Wonder Woman. The fact she takes the title of Captain Marvel in the process is almost secondary. Then, Civil War II happens and suddenly, she's the most controversial non-clone character in all of Marvel.

That makes the stakes in Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 that much higher. Margaret Stohl already has a daunting task as the writer of Mighty Captain Marvel, which attempts to rebuild Carol's status as Marvel's premier female hero after Civil War II. The events of Secret Empire and Marvel Legacy put her in a position to recapture some of those elements that make Captain Marvel a title that anyone of any gender would be proud to have.


Part of that effort involves taking Captain Marvel back to basics, none of which involve superhero politics, visions of the future, or arguments about how long Carol's hair should be. Instead, Carol finds herself in the middle of an war in the Negative Zone that involves an unfamiliar race of aliens, a familiar threat in Annihilus, and her old mentor, the original Captain Mar-Vell. It has all the ingredients to bring out the best in Carol Danvers. It won't settle debates her hair, but even Captain Marvel's power can only go so far.

That power is enough for her and Mar-Vell to carry out the feats for anyone wielding that title. As with previous issues of Marvel Generations, there's not a whole lot of context surrounding the Vanishing Point. There really doesn't have to be. Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 is a bit more concise in that it establishes a clear connection between the events in this story and those of Secret Empire #10. That approach allows Carol to hit the ground running within a chaotic, sci-fi heavy alien war that maximizes Brent Schoonover's colorful art style. Compared to the bleak circumstances of Secret Empire, it's pretty refreshing.

The same can be said about Carol's interactions with Mar-Vell. Much of it is built around over-the-top sci-fi action, but that's fairly in line with their history. Whatever their titles, both characters define themselves by their alien connections. It's a big part of how the connection they forge. The events of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 occur before that connection really blossoms, but it establishes that these two characters share more than a title.

In between battles against aliens and arguing with a race that isn't used to these kinds of battles, there's a fair amount of drama between the two characters. They both have different styles. Carol is more hot-headed and impulsive. Mar-Vell is more cunning and diplomatic. There are times Carol's approach proves effective. There are times when Mar-Vell's approach works as well. It creates tensions, but it's the productive kind of tension. That may seem shocking in an era where tensions between superheroes serve as the basis for every other major event at Marvel, but Stohl shows how it can work.

Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell wield the same title, but are effective at honoring that title in their own unique way. They both say they work alone, but it's only when they use those ways together that they prove most effective. It comes off as a lesson that both characters need to learn. In Carol's case, it's a lesson that's worth re-learning, given her recent missteps among her fellow superheroes. It gives the impression that Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 leaves Carol in a better place, as a character.

In that sense, the overall story has both the basics and a sense of purpose. It feels complete in the sense that it has a relevant impact on both Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell. There are some shortcomings, in terms of details. The story does drag, somewhat, in a few areas. Even with sci-fi settings and a major threat like Annihilus, it never feels as epic as other memorable space battles. Some of that may be due to the restrictions of the Vanishing Point. Like other issues of Marvel Generations, it can only do so much before the timeline snaps back into position.

Whatever limitations there are on the premise of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1, Stohl and Schoonover get the most out of it for the characters involved. By getting back to basics for anyone bearing the title of Captain Marvel, it demonstrates that there is a legacy to that title and one that's worth upholding. Whether or not Carol uses that legacy to improve her standing within the Marvel pantheon remains to be seen, but between gaining a better perspective and taking her frustrations out on Annihilus, she's in a much better place now.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Red Queen Chronicles: The Prodigy Part 1 is LIVE!


Summer is over, but I'm not done heating panties or triggering awkward boners in public places. That's right. I have another sexy side-project and even if you've put your bikini away, this should still make you feel hot all over for all the right reasons. You're welcome.

Once again, I've been amazed with the feedback I've gotten for my "Red Queen" series. It's hard to believe that this all started with just some twisted little story I did about Mary Jane being a prostitute in an AU that involved no deals with Mephisto. I never intended to expand that story as much as I have, but between the feedback I've gotten and all the new ideas it has inspired, I just keep building on it.

I like to think I've set a sexy foundation on which many sexy stories can be told. I've already told quite a few, some more elaborate than others. I've tried, for the most part, to give them some semblance of plot. I understand that's not the primary reason people read these sexy side-projects, but I think a little plot goes a long way towards adding to the sex appeal. This latest project is no exception.

With it, I'll actually be exploring some other aspects to this sexy AU I've created. Specifically, it digs a little deeper into Mary Jane's history as a prostitute. That history will lead her to meet up with a character whose prostitution history is actually canon in Laura "X-23" Kinney. She's always been a favorite of mine. As soon as I began expanding this series, I knew I would get to her sooner or later. It turned out to be sooner.

This story will be a two-part story. It'll explore the past and expand on the present in ways I hope will moisten panties and stain boxers. The first one is officially up. Given how quickly X-23's star has risen in recent years, I think the time is right for her to gain a little sex appeal.


As always, I strongly encourage everyone to provide feedback for this story. I've already gotten far more than I ever expected with this series. The more I get, the more incentive I have to keep growing this series. I hope this one continues that sexy tradition. Mary Jane may not need more sex appeal at this point, but a little more could never hurt. Nuff said!