Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Batman Beyond #1 - Future Awesome in the Present

There comes a time in every fanboy's life when they learn to accept that certain series are over and done with. They end sometimes abruptly, sometimes with a proper send-off and sometimes in a horrific act of destruction (Ultimatum comes to mind and kills a few more brain cells). Other times it's just flat out canceled. But whatever the reason, it's something you come to accept.

Batman Beyond was one of those series that was awesome in it's own right. The cartoon was an intense reworking of everything Batman and the future world of Gotham took on it's own unique light. The story thrived for a while, but it didn't prosper into something ongoing. So when it got canceled it pretty much faded, making only occasional appearances in shows like Static Shock and Justice League Unlimited.. Then DC drops a bombshell. It's bringing Terry McGinnis back into the DC universe.

For any fans of the old show it was like a beautiful supermodel knocking on your bedroom door and asking if it would be alright for her to lick melted chocolate off your dick while she stripped naked to the Dark Knight soundtrack. It came out of nowhere, but in a good way for once. Batman Beyond was a story that had it's own style and even in the diverse DC comic universe, it sets itself apart with it's unique brand of Batman meets Back to the Future. Now readers get a chance to see a full fledged story arc staring Terry McGinnis, Ace the dog, and a grumpy old Bruce Wayne. If that premise alone doesn't give Batman fans a boner, then they need to burn their copy of "The Killing Joke" and hold their heads low in shame.

Batman Beyond #1 is the first issue of this story by Adam Beechen. It starts off as if Batman Beyond was never canceled. There's no ink wasted on an origins story or some bullshit recap page. It gets right into the action and like many problems in the DCU, it starts at a lab for Project Cadmus in the heart of Neo-Gotham (that's another thing, for some reason Gotham decided to add Neo. Probably to sound cool or leech off the popularity of the Matrix, who knows?). An old foe has escaped their custody and is leaving a trail of bloody bodies in his wake. It's the kind of gruesome mystery that works just as well for Batman in the future as it does in the present.

While this is unfolding, Terry McGinnis is hard at work being the new Batman. He's caught up in a battle with his old foe, Spellbinder. Anybody who has seen the old show should remember him. He's the deranged school counselor who heard one too many students bitch about how hard homework was and went crazy, turning into a psychopathic villain who got his kicks casting illusions on people. He's basically the modern day equivalent Jonathan Edwards only not nearly as big a douche.

The fight between Spellbinder and Batman isn't taken lightly. It's a pretty extensive fight that's drawn out over the course of several pages. For a character that's been out of the picture for the past five years, it's pretty refreshing. He hasn't lost his touch and the writers aren't just relying on the novel nature of this comic to make it work. There isn't just action. There's some nice witty exchange between Bruce and Terry. Even though Terry has clearly been doing this for a while, he's still somewhat of a punk and Bruce is still trying to work the kinks out. For a guy his age, that can't be good for his health (as if he ever gave two shits for his own regard to begin with).

But even after the fight is over and Batman wins, there are some interesting developments that help show that this book is still tied to the greater DC universe at large. Micron, the future version of Captain Atom, shows up and offers Batman another chance to join the Justice League. Again, there's some reference to the old show here. There was an episode where Terry did get a chance to party with the big boys and party quite hard at that. However, just like his predecessor he doesn't work well in a team. He prefers to stay a solo act that works locally rather than flying off to some distant star system to save some pocket race of aliens who live on a planet wedged between a black hole and a pulsar whose mating rituals involve giving the finger to passing races of female warriors while they're on their period. So he tells Micron no and isn't very polite about it either. That's Batman for you. Terry still carries the mantel well after his brief affair with a mistress called cancellation.

While the superheroes are talking politics, the escaped killer is having an orgy of fun. He managed to steal some clothes Kyle Reese from Terminator style and slip into the safety of the crowd. That's really all he needs to get back to doing what he does best and what he does best appears to involve butchering people with surgical gear in a way that would make the guys from Nip Tuck castrate themselves. It's another gruesome scene that never would have made it past those pussies in the Parent TV Council for the cartoon. Seeing it in a comic like this just looks and feels so good. Take that Christian Conservatives!

We then get a glimpse of the Batcave and a visibly aged Bruce Wayne. The man has aged about as well as a mix of fine wine and milk. Here the dynamic between Terry and Bruce continues. Bruce is still conditioning him in many ways to be the Batman that Gotham needs. Terry's immaturity shows once again when he talks about that alien concept known as sleep. A real Batman knows that sleep is not in the vocabulary and he learns that the hard way when Bruce detects reports of the murders, thus finally tying this plot with the escaped Cadmus nutjob with the new Batman. Knowing full well it's not possible to say no to the cape, Terry suits up again and heads out to investigate.

What follows is more classic elements of a Batman detective story. Terry heads off to investigate the murders and some of the cool gadgets of the new bat suit, like for instance the microphones in the fingertips, come to light. It sure beats using the old utility belt. Bruce goes down the possibilities. The killer seems to be messing up peoples' faces without going through the usual routine of robbing their ass. It shows they're dealing with a psycho and not a thief with impulse control issues. The list of who it could be is short. Twoface's name is dropped and since Bruce mentions no body being found, common comic book physics take over. We all know the story. No body means the guy ain't dead. So the intrigue only grows.

The next stop is St. James Psych Ward, which is where all the old patients from Arkham got shipped to. Among those still breathing is Jervis Tech, the Mad Hatter. Batman pays the guy a visit only to find that his mind has turned to the consistency of armpit sweat. They guy has clearly warped the minds of one too many victims including his own. So there's not much questioning to be done unless they want to hear fairy tells as told by Charles Manson.

Lucky for Batman, the next clue comes to him. A nurse screams and Batman goes to save her. He arrives to only catch a brief glimpse of the figure running away, who for whatever twisted reason doesn't want to take a shot at Batman yet (probably wanting to brush up on his psycho as a show of mutual respect. All major villains have standards too, you know). Terry goes onto help the nurse, who is obviously traumatized and in need of more therapy than Opera and Dr. Phil can possibly provide. But she's still sane enough to drop an ominous clue as to who is behind this. It's best summed up in one word...Hush.

And wouldn't you know it? The comic ends here on this dandy of a cliffhanger. That's right, readers are left thinking "Are you fucking kidding me?! Instead something tried and overused like Spellbinder or the Jokers they go with something more novel like Hush? How dare they!" I'm shocked and appalled as well. Batman Hush was one of the most acclaimed Batman stories of the past decade and the possibility of it translating into Batman Beyond is just too awesome for words. They could have easily just tried rehashing some old plot from the show, but they didn't. They did something new and fresh and if that isn't enough to rekindle that latent Batman Beyond fan in you, then you're just being a dick.

This comic is awesome. Seeing Terry McGinnis back in action is a real treat. Seeing him back in action in a story that's engaging, novel, yet still contains all the elements that make Batman great only adds icing atop a strippers tits to make it better. It's not without some flaws. The biggest shortcoming of this comic isn't small enough to discount unfortunately. As great as the story and premise is, the art really doesn't measure up. The lines are weak, the coloring is bland, and the environment of Neo-Gotham just doesn't impress in the slightest. It would be perfect if there was some visual awe to go along with the awesome plot. Sadly, your eyes won't be in for a treat so you'll have to make due with the plot.

But since it's still such a strong story with Batman Beyond no less, the comic still gets a 4.5 out of 5. My love for Batman Beyond has officially been brought back from the dead and it is hungry for more awesome! This series has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Nuff said.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

X-Force #28 Cover Released - Hints to Hope/Jean/Phoenix or Another Ruse?

There are only two chapters left in the X-men: Second Coming crossover and time is running out for answers. For the past few weeks I've been giving out less-than-stellar reviews to the likes of Uncanny, New Mutants, and Legacy. It's not that the story hasn't been moving forward. It just isn't moving forward with the same momentum of awesome of previous issues. There is plenty of action, but none of that action seems to point to any real answers as to how this is going to change the status quo for mutants or why Hope is the mutant messiah. Well there are only two comics left with which to answer these questions and the previously classified cover of X-Force #28 came out recently. And what it hints at could indicate we're finally close to getting the answers X-fans have been craving for the past three years.

This was a comic that was supposed to come out this week, but due to a personal issue with Mike Choi it was pushed back to July 8th. It seems almost cruel to release a teaser like this even if it does add to the excitement. Hope Summers is finally doing more than just crying, complaining, and fighting. This girl is supposed to revitalize an entire race and her powers have been a complete mystery since Messiah Complex. Not only that, there have been strong if not unavoidable hints that Hope Summers is connected to the Phoenix Force. And I'm not talking about subtle hints either. I'm sure everyone remembers this little teaser.

There was also the X-men Second Coming Prepare issue that was acted as a big trailer to the event. It did plenty of hyping, but the most curious part was the end where it gave a history of the Phoenix Force that included Hope at the end. It's one thing to just put her in a teaser, but to throw her into an actual account of the Phoenix Force's history? That's being way more overt than Marvel usually is. One little hint can be ignored. Years ago there was Cable #5 which showed baby Hope with Phoenix emblems in her eyes. That got the message boards fired up, but it was one of those hints that could be ignored just as it was done with Mutant Zero. Then it happened again in the mini-series A Girl Called Hope. Her words weren't very subtle either. "I would come back from the dead?" Could you get any more overt?

If that weren't enough, there was the cover of the damn book. It had the Phoenix in the backdrop. So that's not just one hint Marvel is dropping. It's not even two. It's getting to the point where you can't even count them all on one hand. At this point for the Phoenix not to show up, it would be a plot hole of galactic proportions.

So with all these hints and X-Force #28 on top of it, what could it mean? It seems almost unavoidable that Hope Summers has a connection to the Phoenix. It makes perfect sense that the mutant messiah would be able to tap this vast power. It has been established in the Phoenix stories by Grant Morrison and Greg Pak that the Phoenix works by burning away things that don't work. The aftermath of M-Day which basically doomed mutants to extinction could very well be something that doesn't work in the eyes of the Phoenix and must be fixed. Hope using the Phoenix would be one of the very few things in the Marvel universe that could undo a massive warping of reality. But that's the problem. It may make too much sense.

As many hints as there have been about Hope's powers, there have also been plenty of counter-hints as well. In the Cable series she did show some telepathy and telekinesis, which is eerily similar to another certain redhead who once wielded cosmic power. Going back even further, she healed Rogue of the strain-88 virus while also evading detection from Cerebro and as an infant no less. Then there was the recent issue of Uncanny X-men, which showed Hope's eyes flashing in a similar way to that of Cyclops. It's fueled speculation that Hope is a mimic of sorts. That would make some sense, but it wouldn't explain the Phoenix connotations nor would it explain how that would somehow revitalize the mutant race. Also, a mimic wouldn't technically be a mutant either and she was said to be the first mutant born after M-day. It's led to a lot of confusion and answers haven't even been hinted at throughout the Second Coming crossover.

There is also the other elephant in the room that is as unavoidable as the Phoenix. Hope has red hair, green eyes, Phoenix flashes in her eyes, and is being raised in the future. Who else shares those qualities that sets them apart from any other Marvel redhead? What other popular Marvel character with a rabid fanbase that constantly pesters Marvel shares those qualities? If Jean Grey didn't come to mind, then you need to fork over your fanboy card immediately.

I've been saying for months. Jean Grey has been "dead" in the comics for for six years now and I say "dead" with quotations because technically she's still active. Phoenix Endsong showed her dead corpse rising from the grave and merging with the Phoenix Force so that it could return to the White Hot Room and find it's missing pieces. That's basically where her story has been lately and it's only recently that it's been re-emerging again. She even made a brief appearance (at least it seems that way) in Uncanny X-men #510 where she showed up to Emma Frost in a vision. There was also the infamous Uncanny X-men #511 cover which turned out to be a total farce.

All this adds to the possibility and the likelihood that Hope is some incarnation of Jean Grey. Marvel could have made Hope look like anything they wanted, but they gave her red hair and green eyes so that she perfectly resembled Jean. Not only that, they had her raised by Cable in the future. Why is that important? Well conversely it was Jean who raised Cable as a child in the future along with Scott. So the parallels are definitely there. Not only that, as she has grown she's only grown more and more like Jean Grey in terms of appearance. She even adopted the same green and gold dress sense of Jean's Phoenix form in Second Coming for crying out loud! It couldn't be more overt if Marvel sent a letter to every fan's house that read "See! She could be Jean Grey!"

This of course begs the question of whether or not this is another ruse. Marvel has pulled them before like they did with Mutant Zero and Uncanny 511. Could they do it again? Well this time it would be a lot harder because there are so many hints they'll have to ignore. Even if they do, there's no getting around the Phoenix clues. Even if Hope becomes a vessel for the Phoenix Force without being Jean Grey, it still by default makes her a complete Jean Grey knock-off. How could it not? A red haired, green eyed woman with the Phoenix Force that isn't Jean Grey? That simply cannot last without being a gimmick.

The sad thing is that Marvel would certainly try something like this. They have shown in the past an uncanny tendency to avoid bringing back Jean at all cost, but there's no denying her star power. Sales of Phoenix Endsong and her origins comic are proof enough of that. So rather than bring her back, they may try to make Hope into a replacement of sorts. She looks and carries herself like Jean Grey in so many ways, but she isn't Jean Grey. For everything that has happened in Second Coming and for all the hints that have been dropped, that would be a huge push. Not only that, there's already a Jean Grey look-alike that's still alive and running around in 616. That's Rachel Summers. She's not currently in the books, but she is alive and making Hope Summers just like her would somewhat defeat the purpose.

It seems the only way to make this story truly salient is if Hope is some kind of incarnation or rebirth of Jean Grey. Perhaps she's that vital piece of humanity that Jean seemed to lose during the Grant Morrison run. It would make perfect sense and it would be a novel and unique way to bring Jean back into the fold without seeming cheesy or contrived. But again, it may make too much sense. Jean Grey is a character that appears in so many Marvel incarnations. She was in Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2 for crying out loud! Yet the medium that gave her life keeps trying to kill her off completely. This is probably the best chance Marvel will ever get to bring Jean back in a good way. If they blow it then it may be years before she appears in the fold again.

If Hope doesn't turn out to have some link to Jean Grey then Second Coming is officially a farce. If the Phoenix is completely ignored, then that would rank it right up there with the Clone Saga and Ultimatum as a total travesty to comic book storytelling. The answers seem close at hand and the aftermath already seems to be taking hold as future solicitations show that Hope Summers does survive Second Coming. Does that mean she used the Phoenix successfully? Does that mean she was revealed to be some aspect of Jean Grey? Only time will tell and that time is running out.

X-Force #28 comes out next week on July 8th and the finale of Second Coming comes out a week later. Stay tuned to this blog for the final revelations as they come in and the commentary/ranting that may follow. I wait with bated if not skeptical breath. Years of comics are culminating in these two issues. It's been a long time coming and hopefully it's worth the wait.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Batman/Superman #73 - Awesome Worthy of Worship

Here we go again. DC has once again sunk their greedy claws into me by dangling the metaphorical carrot of awesome in front of me. They've hit a string of grand slams with Blackest Night and Brightest day and because of it, I'm adding more and more DC comics to my pull list. It's like quitting smoking, but then taking a casual drag from a friend on a whim and the next thing I know I'm knocking over 7/11s at two in the morning for a fresh pack. It's been a while since I picked up Batman/Superman, but after the radiant awesome of Superman #700 and the engaging stories of Brightest day I just couldn't resist taking a peak. I haven't been into Batman/Superman since the Jeph Loeb era and for good reason. A lot of the stories after it have been about as promising as Tiger Woods's wedding vows. Now I've taken another look and I'm glad I did because the sheer awesome that Superman has been towing lately cannot be understated.

The issue starts off in a way similar to that of Superman #700, but not too similar. Lois Lane is in trouble again. Yeah, I know. That's about as new as the invention of the wheel. But it's a different kind of trouble this time. She's not just caught up in some supervillain's agenda. She's been kidnapped by a crazy cult who for reasons that are perfectly rational to any major religion, wants to sacrifice her to Superman. I don't get it either, but the sad thing is that's probably not the craziest thing a cult has done.

It's an interesting premise. Superman has been such an inspiration over the years, you're left wondering why some freaky religious cult didn't develop sooner. Take anything that extreme and somebody is bound to make a religion of it. As is often the case, the religion drinks heavily from the well of the irrational and human sacrifice is about as reasonable as burning incense to appease the volcano gods. Unfortunately for these guys, Lois Lane isn't a helpless damsel. She's married to Superman for a reason and as such she's not to be fucked with.

She puts up a good fight and the freaky cult leaders are left with wounded spirits, hurt pride, and a few critical injuries that are sure to earn favor with the sadomasochistic mercy gods. But she still needs saving and usually this is where Superman would swoop in and begin mass castrations for those who tried to burn his wife at the stake. But oddly enough, it isn't the Man of Steel that saves her. It's the Dark Knight. This is Batman/Superman after all so why shouldn't Batman get some screen time to kick a little ass?

He ends up doing more than that though. His next task is to interrogate one of the cult members to get some information. And anybody who knows anything about Batman's interrogation methods knows that the unfortunate victim is usually willing to suck Satan's greasy cock after just a few minutes of having a little chat with the Dark Knight.

While this poor soul is getting the fear of God shoved into his ass, Lex Luthor is at it again. Anytime someone is being worshiped as a god that isn't him, he's going to get involved. It stands to reason that if Luthor ever met the almighty himself, he would challenge him to a dick measuring contest and stretch his cock to the ends of the universe in order to win. So naturally he's going to try and one-up Superman by becoming a god in his own right. To do this he's working on a gateway to a planet that he's trying to psychologically manipulate. He wants the inhabitants to worship him as a god. When it comes to ego, Lex Luthor never does anything half-assed.

While Luthor is stroking his rock hard boner of an ego, Batman continues to interrogate the unlucky soul he subdued. Then Superman enters the picture and helps move things along, interrogating the man as anyone would for someone who just tried to kill their wife. It goes without saying that the man sang like Celine Dion. Apparently, these devout religious folk got their cues from something called the Visionary. As a means of showing devotion, it instructed the cult to sacrifice Lois Lane. I don't get it either, but it makes about as much sense as 90 percent of the bible so it's still perfectly rational in that sense. How sad is that?

With this information, Batman and Superman begin their investigation. It's like a good old fashioned mystery novel, only with more men in tights and aliens who look human. But their investigation is pretty standard. Both heroes look for answers as anyone would expect, which is admittedly pretty bland. But remarkably enough, they fall behind the one key player who doesn't have superpowers or three billion dollars of crime fighting gear. Yep, I'm talking about Lois freakin' Lane and for once she does more than just get captured and rescued.

She goes old school on the heroes, relying instead on being a kick-ass reporter who happens to have more integrity than 99 percent of the media. In other words, Fox News wouldn't hire her even if she had gold tits that spewed oil. She looks further into the man that was interrogated. Her reasoning is so profound that every religion cowers before such logic. Follow the money. It shows that while Lois Lane may always be a damsel in some ways, she knows how to do her part in the superhero business.

While answers are coming in for Lois, Lex Luthor is still working on his megalomaniac plan to become god to an entire planet. In other words, it's a pretty average Wednesday night for him. He's preparing to demonstrate technology to this planet, using simple machines that to an unenlightened mind would be more mind-blowing than a shot of LSD mixed with tequila. Lex is surprisingly articulate as he orders his minions around, making sure he's miles above them at all times in terms of authority and ballsiness. One has to worry for the planet he's about to seduce because his first divine commandment will probably be "Thoust shalt not have bigger balls than the almighty."

While this blasphemous project is going on, Superman and Lois arrive at a location that she uncovered and meet up with Batman. It turns out good old fashioned reporting does trump superpowers at times because they end up barging in on yet another freaky ritual with the Superman cult. They find out that this Visionary isn't a person that got one too many hugs from his priest as a boy. It's a glowing ball of energy. Again, in terms of cults that's perfectly reasonable. And like any religious visionary, the thing is still spouting nonsense about sacrificing Lois Lane. That's like worshipping God by breaking all his commandments and having butt sex with the devil. Even the Taliban would call that pretty fucked up.

Superman tries to set things right. He does what the movie Ghostbusters specifically teaches men not to do, which is to deny that they are god when one asks them if they are. He stands in front of the cult and says he's not god and that Visionary is just a technological trick. Granted, religion has never been good at keeping pace with science, but it's a harsh reality that they have to accept. Superman is okay with any praise, but the last thing he wants is a cult tolerant of human sacrifice in his name.

He goes onto lecture about how fucked up they are to join a cult as batshit as this. But before his lesson sinks in that Visionary ball gets unstable and by unstable I mean ready to unleash enough explosive force to burn the flesh off the bones of anyone in a two mile radius. Superman does what he does best, trying to grab the Visionary and fly it up into the sky where it won't harm anybody. It takes some doing, but Superman does blow the fire out like a big birthday candle. All the while the cult members are still urging him to save them even after he specifically said he wasn't a god. I suppose that means being a good listener wasn't a lesson taught by this cult. Again, in terms of most ordinary religions it's pretty typical.

Even though the Visionary is snuffed out, there are still plenty of questions left unanswered. The fire blob was just a trick of technology and like all technology it needs someone to operate it. The only question is who and to any reader with three quarters of a brain, the answer is pretty clear. This is where the plot with Lex Luthor ties into the plot with Batman and Superman. It's a perfect merging at the end, revealing that Luthor was behind the cult. It seems like this was just a proving ground, a test for when he takes the next step with the target planet. In terms of plotting, this is pretty damn brilliant and Luthor. He may be a madman, but he knows how to go the extra mile.

It's a solid end to a solid comic, setting things up for another pivotal issue. It lures the reader in like that first hit of crack and it's a great jumping on point for those looking to get back into this series. I certainly enjoyed it. It's not nearly as emotional and profound as Superman #700, but it does everything a reader could want in a Batman/Superman comic. It isn't without it's faults. At times the art is a little inconsistent. The colors are poor so are the details. In addition the action is a little weak at times. It feels as though it could have been drawn out more, but for what it's worth it most certainly got the job done.

This is another awesome comic that is doing even more to rekindle my love for the Man of Steel. It's not the flawless masterpiece that Superman #700 was, but it's still pretty damn awesome. This comic gets a 4.5 out of 5 and a very enthusiastic recommendation for anybody with any level of appreciation for awesome comics. It's official! I'm back on the Batman/Superman bandwagon and eagerly await for my next hit in Batman/Superman #74! Nuff said.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

X-men Second Coming: X-men Legacy #237 - Waning Awesome

For a series that started off so strong, X-men Second Coming has been withering slowly in act three just like Jennifer Aniston's acting career. What made the story so strong was how well it flowed. From issue to issue, the pace was steady and the action, characterization, and emotions all came together nicely. That's not an easy thing to do when four separate writers are working on this beast, but if the succeeded in the first two acts then why not the third? First there was Uncanny X-men #525 with Matt Fraction, which spoiled the momentum. Then came Zeb Wells with New Mutants #14, which failed to regain that momentum. Now if ever there was an X-men writer who could get this eagle soaring again, it's Mike Carey. If the X-men writers were the A-Team, Mike Carey would be Hannibal. So there were high hopes for X-men Legacy #237 and while it wasn't an epic fail, the series is still limping like Rickey Martin's dick at the Playboy Mansion.

The first page starts things off pretty strongly. In the previous issue, every mutant on Utopia had their backs against the wall with the Nimrod Sentinels coming down on them like Al Gore on the CEO of BP. They needed a game-changer and they got one in Magneto, who has been out of commission due to the events of Uncanny X-men #522. He took himself off the bench here and let loose on the Nimrod sentinels. For a guy so old he should be shitting in bags in a retirement home by now, he kicks some serious ass. The problem is he does it on only one page. Seriously, how does Carey and Greg Land expect us to appreciate Magneto's badassery in one page?

From there, the story makes a sloppy transition to X-Force in the future. It is the first of what will become many sloppy transitions, making this comic flow about as well as a constipated rhino. It's not the kind of storytelling you would expect from Mike Carey, but for what it's worth he does flesh out the scene pretty well. He has X-Force trying to make a dent in Mastermold and failing miserably while Cable and Cypher are trying to attack the brain of this behemoth. It's a pretty badass scene, especially for Cypher who isn't known for having balls of steel. But he manages to really step up and dive head first into Mastermold's head. Contrary to popular perceptions, the mind of a machine is pretty damn cool and Greg Land really does capture the moment with his unique style.

Another bumpy transition later, and we're back in the present with the X-men kicking ass on the Golden Gate bridge. For all intents and purposes they're still pretty screwed. Much of what was shown the last two issues holds true here. The Nimrods are beating down on the X-men like they're Mexicans in Arizona. Last issue it was Colossus who got singled out. This time it's Storm, who puts up a little more of a fight and shows why she shouldn't have been married off to Black Panther and thrust out of the X-men. But I'd rather not go off on that rant.

While Storm does get humbled, she doesn't get humiliated the way Colossus did. Before the Nimrods can turn the queen into a joker, Hope Summers shows up (you know, the so-called mutant messiah this whole crossover is about who has had a grand total of 2 pages in the past two comics? Still not ringing any bells?) and she's packing a big fucking gun from the 28th century. And with this big fucking gun she goes Rambo on the Nimrod sentinels with Rogue playing the backup John McClane type role. For a girl who's still a teenager, it's pretty badass and way overdue.

Hope's presence helps tip some of the balance on the bridge (although Cyclops looks pretty damn pissed about it). Cut to another sloppy transition and we're back on Utopia with Magneto. Somehow, it feels as though these pages should have been added to the one at the beginning because it picks up fairly closely to where that page left off. Magneto is fighting off the Nimrod sentinels. Not much is said, just that the Nimrods detect his power levels way below what they should be. So they understandably get the robot equivalent of cocky. That doesn't last though. Magneto shows once again that he's not just a badass, he's pretty damn smart too. He reminds them that he was the one that build the rock that Utopia is floating on now. And he built it out of iron. Nimrod is about to get a lesson in physics. What happens when you take a shit ton of magnetism and use it to warp iron? Well since the physics is as boring as watching flies fuck, Magneto skips the lecture and goes straight to the demonstration. It's not exactly clean, but sure is awesome.

The next few pages take a break from all the sloppy transitions and tie together the entire fight, present and future alike. It's easy to forget with all these scenes that these battles are all unfolding at the same time. Greg Land makes good use of these pages and slaps together a nice montage of the whole epic fight that's unfolding. It's by far the best part of the issue and helps tie together what has been building since Act III began. You've got the X-men, X-Force, and Hope fighting side-by-side. Without mincing words, it's pretty fucking sweet.

Through it all there's plenty of gloom and doom. The X-men are backed into a corner and have been Bastion's whipping boy for nearly three issues now. The time for a turning point is long overdue and it finally happens within the computerized mind of Cypher. He asserts himself as the real star of this issue as battles Mastermold, who appears to be trying to fuck his brain in the style of tentacle anime porn. But for Cypher, no really does mean no and he finally gets the better of the big bad erector set by being creative and witty. It's definitely the kind of style one would expect in a Mike Carey comic.

As soon as Cypher wins his battle, the war against the Nimrod sentinels is won as well. It's a classic case of buying time against a superior foe while an ace in the whole goes for the jugular. It's not terribly complicated, but it isn't the same old cliched brawl that so many event comics often resort to. The strategy here really does add a level of complexity to this fight that isn't easy to come by and is quite fitting for a crossover of this nature. For once, Bastion's brilliant plan falters and the X-men can finally stop shitting themselves.

Now you would think things would settle after a battle like this, but this is X-men. Things never settle, especially considering they're still trapped in an unbreakable red dome. As the dust is settling, Cyclops goes after Hope. Unlike the others he seems to have remembered that Hope is still the key to this whole affair. She's the one who is supposed to save the mutant race. Unfortunately, she's still pretty pissed at him for sending Cable into the future and she makes her anger known by pointing the big fucking gun she used to bitch slap the Nimrod Sentinels right at his jaw.

Now this could have been a very emotional scene, but it quickly turns into somewhat of a joke. Granted, Mike Carey does a decent job of laying out the dialogue, but Greg Land's art really disappoints here. He draws Cyclops with the expression of Chrisopher Walken on LSD while Hope looks like she's suffocating on the surface of Mars while someone is jamming an ice pick into her spine. She does have plenty of reason to be angry, but the problem here is the same problem she had back in Uncanny X-men #525. It's overly dramatic and lacking heart. It's also disturbing to look at. Hope has been drawn so well before and this is by far her worst. If I was her agent, I would send a dead horse head to Greg Land as a warning.

While Hope is directing all her frustrations on Cyclops, there's something unfolding with X-Force in the future. They beat Mastermold, so how are they going to get back home? Well as it turns out Mastermold took a page right out of the Terminator series and made the time gate only accessible to non-organic life forms. X-23 tried to pass through, but nearly got burnt to a crisp in a gruesome yet strangely awesome scene. Then Cable has an idea and not a very good one either. He lets the techno-organic virus that he's been battling for years take over his body so he can pass through. He arrives just in time to wipe that disturbing look off Hope's face set things up for another major fight. Compared to the cringe-worthy nature of the previous few pages, this one looks pretty damn good and helps get the contents of the reader's stomach back to where they should be.

Now this could have been a great place to end the comic, but Mike Carey does not like leaving loose ends as some of the other writers seem way too comfortable with. He seemed to realize that it would be stupid if for three comics they didn't show Bastion, the mastermind behind this whole attack. So he finally gives rob-douche a scene and a pretty damn good one too. Having watched the battle, Bastion is shaken but not daunted. He still has some momentum going for him. He still has the X-men trapped. He can make one final push and it looks like he's going to in the pages of X-Force. If that isn't enough to get readers high like bunnies on crack, then they need to turn in their fanboy cards immediately.

So despite the many missteps of the past few issues, Mike Carey does help move things forward and sets things up for a dramatic finish. If keeping the story going and keeping it entertaining was the goal, then mission accomplished. But if regaining the same brand of awesome that was so apparent from the beginning of the crossover was the goal, then that would be a mission failure. Mike Carey is usually so good about fleshing out what other writers have failed to do so he's so surprisingly underwhelming in this that it's disheartening. It could be because there really wasn't much room for his usual characterization and dialogue. This was an issue that was all about the action. It was pretty good action at times and it would have definitely made up for the lack of dialogue and depth if it flowed nicely. But it didn't. The scenes transitions were sloppy and abrupt. There wasn't much wit going on either, which made certain portions come off as dry and uninspired.

But these shortcomings aren't nearly as egregious as the previous two issues and if nothing else, Carey did a nice job ending a fight that was starting to drag while laying the seeds for a new one. He kept the reader's interest and he did so without being too tacky. Greg Land had some nice moments as well, but that one page with Hope and Cyclops really brought him down a few pegs. He's been one of the better artists in this crossover so it's pretty distressing to see him barf a few panels like this. It seems to be a perfect sum-up of the disheartening trend Second Coming is going through. The crossover is just waning towards the end. It only has two issues left to redeem itself. If it's going to really be great, the next two issues will have to be flawless.

When put into the context of the past few issues and the plots that led up to it, this issue barely gets a 4 out of 5. I'm inclined to give it something lower, but it does improve from the previous two issues. It just doesn't do nearly enough. Also, with only two issues left it seems increasingly unlikely that there will be any answers concerning Hope and the many Phoenix/Jean Grey teases that have been dropped since Messiah Complex. Two issues left and still no word. If this series ends without addressing this it will be an epic fail and all the awesome from earlier will be for nothing. I pray Marvel isn't that stupid, but I wouldn't put it past them. I'm still on board until the very end. I'm ready for X-Force 28! Craig Kyle and Chris Yost have been visionaries for much of this series. It's time to see if they got the stones to pick up the slack! Nuff said.

Friday, June 25, 2010

X-men Supreme Issue 14: Underworld Part 1 PREVIEW

Another week has gone by and the new issue of X-men Supreme is coming along nicely. As always, I've prepared a sneak peak of the next issue for all you loyal X-men fanfiction fans. The new issue will introduce some more familiar faces from the X-men universe and as with all previous incarnations they'll have their own unique Supreme twist! The next issue will be the beginning of another arc, but it'll be a short arc. There's a much bigger event lying just ahead! Some of the seeds will be planted right here so you won't want to miss it! Until then, enjoy the preview and stay tuned for more X-men Supreme updates and comic reviews.

“So how bad is the fallout from the Dazzler affair?” asked Mystique.

“Bad enough,” replied Magneto, “That mission was supposed to galvanize humans against mutants and rally mutants to our cause. That way we would have all the manpower we need for the final and most crucial part of my plan. Now we’ll have to find other means of getting more mutants on our side.”

“Why not just stage another event as you put it? It shouldn’t take much to turn human sentiment back against mutants.”

“That’s not what concerns me at this point. Right now we need to focus all our resources on mutants, not humans. And this equipment the Brotherhood is so generously unloading for us will help with that.”

“But that can’t be all, can it?” surmised Mystique, “I’m sure you have another plan for getting the word out.”

Magneto turned to his shape shifting ally and smiled. She had been working with him long enough to realize that he always found a way to improvises.

“You know me well, Mystique,” he told her, “Since the Brotherhood is still enduring their punishment, I’m going to trust you to take care of this.”

“I figured as such,” she said as she looked callously at the laboring Brotherhood, “What do you need me to do?”

Magneto turned away and started walking back towards the transport bay where all the transport orbs were stored. Mystique followed close behind, having had enough of watching the Brotherhood drone on about their misfortune.

“I’ll be sending you into the mutant underground so-to-speak,” he said as he activated one of his transport orbs, “You’re going to deliver the message Pietro failed to deliver himself, only you’re going to do it more directly.”

“Sounds easy enough,” said Mystique with an ominous grin, “I always favored a more personal touch anyways.”

“We may not get as many supports as we would have from the Dazzler mission, but we’ll get the forces we need,” Magneto went on as he programmed the orb, “I’m sending you to a number of secretive mutant communities. Use whatever means you can to spread the word. Try not to attract the attention of the X-men. And most importantly, don’t make the same mistakes as your subordinates.”

“No need to remind me of that, Magneto,” said the shape shifter confidently, “You of all people should know how good I am at getting my point across.”

“I’m inclined to remind you of Rogue, but I’ll take your word for it. I’ll send you more detailed instructions via radio. Just get the job done and get it done fast. Time is running out. We’ll be making our move very soon.”

Magneto’s tone was stern if not threatening. He could not understate how important this part of the plan was. Mystique understood as she got into the transport orb. This plan had already taken many turns. They failed to bring Xavier under their wing with the Weapon X plan and they failed to rally their supporters with the Dazzler plan. But they were too far into it to pull back now. Too many pieces were in place. They just had to make sure it all came together in the end.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Superman #700 - Giant Sized Awesome

Thanks to likes of Blackest Night and Brightest Day my love for DC Comics has been rekindled and my wallet hates me for adding that much more to my weekly comic budget. We're not currently on speaking terms, but I'm not letting that stop me from getting awesome comics like Superman #700. I know I normally don't review Superman comics, but this is a Giant Sized anniversary issue and I just couldn't resist. These kinds of books are like a winning season for the Detroit Lions, rare in it's frequency yet beautiful in it's own right.

The book itself is divided into three self-contained stories. All of them are awesome in their own right, making it a three for one deal that offers more bang for the buck. Your wallet and bank account may just like you a little bit more, although my wallet still hates me. The first story centers around Clark and Lois. Now it may seem strange that the most iconic relationship in the history of comics has been lacking lately, but between Blackest Night and War of the Supermen these two haven't really gotten a lot of screen time. They're long overdue and they get their chance when Lois gets into trouble (as she's so prone to do) with Parasite.

What happens next is classic without being cliched. Superman shows up and saves Lois. I know, some are rolling their eyes because that's what Superman has been doing for nearly a century. My response to them (other than "what the fuck is your problem?") would be this is who these characters are. This age old story of Superman saving Lois is ingrained in their persona and it helps drive their relationship in a unique way that makes it the most iconic in comic history. Add to that, Superman still looks pretty badass when he beats the shit out of guys like Parasite.

After a classic super ass-kicking, Clark and Lois get more personal and this is where the real meat of the story resides. Clark fills Lois in about what happened on New Krypton (read War of the Superman if you're scratching your head) and they have a brief discussion. It's not as cliched as one would expect. These two, like any serious couple who doesn't want to end up in divorce court, don't gloss over these facts and confront them. I know that may seem counter-intuitive to readers raised on the merits of make-up sex, but in the real world and with characters like these confronting these issues is what makes a relationship actually work. Yet to satisfy these twisted notions, Clark and Lois do have an intimate moment.

After some super cuddling, the couple go out for a stroll. And by stroll I mean flying through the sky at speeds that would make most people shit themselves. This is Superman we're talking about. Everything he does is done with super dedication and that includes Lois, who by now should be plenty used to flying over the city as no mere mortal woman ever has. Here they share another moment that is very reflective of their relationship. Lois wants Superman to promise that he'll never leave her again. Now most men when their woman tells them this are obligated to say one thing: "Yes dear. I will never leave you again." Anything less will result in couch banishment for a full year and no sex for possibly longer.

But this is Superman we're dealing with. He's a guy whose righteous to a fault. He can't make a promise he can't keep, even to the woman he loves. He doesn't even flinch. He tells her he can't make that promise. This is why Lois is so right for him. She doesn't just understand. This is a part about him she loves. Many women may find it annoying for a man to be this blunt and morally ridged. But for Lois, for whatever odd tastes she may have, it's the equivalent of a pussy boner. And his response is just what she expected and wanted. If after this you're still cynical about Clark and Lois being the best couple in comic history, then you're just being difficult.

The next story shifts gears a bit, telling a story using the Worlds Finest. For those of you who aren't up to speed with comic lingo, that means Batman/Superman. Only this story isn't a typical Batman/Superman team up. In this story, Robin gets to do the teaming while Bruce Wayne and Batman take a back seat. What happens is Bruce has the standard Wayne Enterprise business he can't miss and Gotham has to go without Batman for the night. Robin is expected to stay home and finish his Geometry homework. But as with any rebellious teenager, he has other plans.

He ventures out on his motorcycle to stop a smuggling ring. There's no Batman to watch his back. He's just a kid in a costume looking to bust some heads. In the context of this story it's pretty predictable what happens next. He's overwhelmed, cornered, and captured by the well-armed smugglers. It seems at this point Robin can't hold his own and the bad guys don't take any chances, knowing Batman won't go down so easily.

But Batman is the least of their worries. As it just so happens, Superman is in town and he lends Robin a hand. He saves him from a concrete slipper and a date with the bottom of the river and makes quick work of the smugglers. Well-armed they may be, but Lex Luthor they are not. They don't stand a chance. Superman takes them out and Commissioner Gordon takes care of the rest.

Now if the story ended here, that would be fairly decent if not sub-par. But there are a few more twists that bring the awesome factor up to par. Not only does Superman fly Robin back home before Bruce can find out, he actually does his geometry homework for him! Seriously, when have you ever heard of a superhero being that cool? That's the kind of hero you don't just admire. That's the kind of hero you'd rather pray to besides some greedy, overly dramatic non-homework-doing super-being in tights. Only Superman can pull it off and it makes for a fun and entertaining end to a story that could have been too bland to mention.

The next story is a bit lighter on the action and much heavier on the drama. It covers Superman being interviewed about what happened with New Krypton by the media. The questions are pretty standard and unlike 99.9999 percent of all politicians and public figures, Superman answers honestly and without hesitation. He even says those three words that no politician is even supposed to think "I don't know." It all seems standard when out of nowhere this woman comes up and slaps him right across the face. No, she's not a super-villain looking to cause trouble. She's a regular woman whose pissed at Big Blue.

Now why is she pissed? It's not because Superman wronged her or lied to her. It's not even because of what happened to New Krypton. She was mad because she just lost her husband to a brain tumor. It seems odd that she would lash out at Superman of all people. He's a guy who fights super-powered monsters, not brain tumors. But that wasn't the point. The point she made was that he wasn't there. He wasn't where he was supposed to be, with the people he was supposed to look after. Some may argue circumstances, but it doesn't make her wrong and Superman knows this.

Superman then flies off, which is sort of his way of saying "no more questions" only in his case the media doesn't give him shit for it. He's clearly affected by what that woman said. He talks to Batman and the Flash about it. He talks about perspective and how they relate to the people they're trying to protect. For a guy who by many measures isn't human, that's an important perspective to have. The events of New Krypton made him forget about that and it's only now he's fully realizing that.

It makes for a fitting and emotional ending to the three stories. It also ties together the after-effects of events like War of the Supermen. It's always easy to gloss over these more personal moments in a story where there aren't giant robots looking to crush everything in their path. It perfectly compliments the first two stories and brings home much of what makes a Superman comic super. It may seem melodramatic to some, but in terms of storytelling it adds to a sense of completion.

In terms of a Giant Sized anniversary issue, Superman #700 can be considered a standard by which all others like it are measured. It's one of those issues where the writers seem to put extra effort. Some might find themselves wishing "why the hell can't they do this with every issue?!" Well that's not how these stories work. They are best told in a certain way and under the right circumstances. Those circumstances just happen to be rare and that's what makes it special. Nobody would give a fuck about Christmas if it happened more than once a year. It's the rarity that makes it special and this comic embodies all of those traits and then some.

Any Superman, DC, or general comic fan would be wise to add this to their collection and frame it for future generations so they know what real awesome entails. This issue gets a 5 out of 5 and every mark of perfection a comic can possibly earn. If DC keeps making comics like this, I'll be needing a much bigger pull list for each Wednesday. Now if you'll excuse me, my wallet and I are going to have another fight. But for awesome like this, it's worth it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

X-men Second Coming: Hellbound #2 - Devilish Awesome

While the self-described biggest X-men crossover of the decade has been more erratic than a bipolar schizophrenic on her period at times, lost in the madness are the offshoot stories that emerge from it. One of those stories is the Hellbound arc, which spun directly out of the pages of Second Coming when Illyana was attacked and sent to Limbo. In response Cyclops sent Cannonball on a mission with Gambit, Anole, Trance, Northstar, Dazzler, and a reluctant Pixie to rescue her. The first issue was mostly a setup and pretty light on action and heavy on bloated cliched character plots. The new issue, however, is heavy on the action and the twists and it goes without saying that it makes the story a hell of a lot better.

It starts off with Illyana making an appearance. Her situation hasn't changed much. She's still screwed, captive in Limbo and being bound by something that looks like the Sarklac from Return of the Jedi. Were this a Japanese comic it would quickly turn into a tentacle rape scene for anime porn, but since Marvel is run by a bunch of prudes they're content to just show her struggling as if that's not suggestive enough.

The fight with the rest of the team involves a lot less S&M undertones. Sam Guthrie is given some nice scenes, showing that he really is taking charge and acting as a leader should. In the last issue he came off as being a bit weak, but here he definitely shows some balls. He's blasting his way through demons and looking pretty damn awesome in the process. If this doesn't get him some quality pussy back on Utopia then nothing will.

He's not the only one strutting his stuff. More detailed fight scenes are shown with Dazzler, Anole, and Northstar. They reflect what really is the strength of this issue and every Chris Yost comic for that matter. The action isn't just mindless fighting. There is structure and choreography to it. It's part of what has helped make X-Force a consistent well of awesome and Yost doesn't hold anything back here. Everybody gets a moment to shine.

But while many of the other characters shine, Pixie is still the weak link here. In the previous issue she came off as a whiny little bitch for acting all "I'm so scared about going back to Limbo!" and "I don't wanna! I don't wanna go! You can't make me!" Put her in a pair of overalls and put a beanie on her head and she's a prototypical three-year-old brat. Now to be fair, she is being more heavily targeted than the others. She has a history in Limbo and she'll understandably draw a crowd. But still, she shows next to no backbone. I know she's a teenage girl and all, but a little badassery would give her some serious respectability. Right now, she's flirting dangerously close to Paris Hilton caliber lameness.

She does show some grit though. She has a genuine desire to save Illyana. However, her dialogue just seems dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. It's like she was just made to say these things and that doesn't reflect in her actions or her attitude. It's an inconsistent portrayal and Trance comes off as being more together than Pixie ever will. To be fair she's only there in spirit form, but this erratic characterization for Pixie makes her seem like she skipped her Thorazine meds.

While Pixie may be taking the awesomeness potential down a peg, it definitely gets a boost from the man who graces the cover of this issue. Gambit, whose badassery by far compensates for Pixie's lack thereof, gives this comic a major twist. In recent years he's been going back and forth between his human side and his Death persona, which Apocalypse instilled. It's not a very nice persona and it's never been clear how much control he has over this persona. For whatever reason, Limbo has brought out his more colorful side and being Death in a place like Limbo seems to fit as well as being a troubled NFL star in a strip club.

Gambit quickly gains the support and trust of the demons of Limbo. Because really, why fight when you can just get your enemies to join you? It's perfect for Gambit's persona. He's a thief and a scoundrel and he'll do bad in order to do good when everybody else is too much of a pussy to do the same.

With the demons under his control, he turns his attack on Dazzler and Northstar. They are understandably pissed and confused at his actions. They react as one would expect, looking to get away from his hoards while kicking his ass in the process.

That's easy for Northstar, who seems to have no trouble avoiding the attacks. But just because Gambit went a little off his rocker doesn't mean he's stupid now. He singles out Dazzler and gets her under his influence, turning her into a similar Death persona. Northstar doesn't stand a chance and eventually gets roped in as well. There's some gay joke in here somewhere, but the scene is just too awesome and I'd rather not taint it.

Now maybe it's a bad sign when Gambit in his Death persona is doing better than Cannonball, who is supposed to be the leader of this whole affair. He's fighting a losing battle to say the very least and his moments turn mostly into trying to save his team from taking a magma bath. It shows that while this team of his packs some serious punch, they're a far cry from a Cyclops-led team of veterans. It doesn't seem to help that Illyana is nowhere in sight and they've lost track of Pixie. Cannonball tries to stay calm, but he gets increasingly desperate and to his credit he doesn't lose his cool. But that changes when Gambit, Dazzler, and Northstar show up in their Death personas. But this is where the second twist takes place.

Gambit easily could have attacked and overwhelmed Cannonball and Anole. He could have easily subdued them like the 2008 Detroit Lions. However, that doesn't happen. He and his new hoard of allies don't strike a blow. He just asks that they talk. It adds a different level of complexity to this development. What's going on? Is Gambit really joining the Limbo hoards or does he have a plan for this? How is Cannonball going to react as a leader? How will this affect their rescue of Illyana? All are intriguing questions that jam a grappling hook into the reader and reels them in for the rest of the story.

While this moment with Gambit is oozing with awesome from every orifice, the next scenes with Pixie continue to be underwhelming. She and Trance continue to fight their way through the Limbo hoards, but along the way Trance gets knocked out of the fight and ends up going back to her body on Utopia. This leaves Pixie all on her own to take on Limbo and like Gambit, she succumbs to the influence of the dark forces there. And unlike Gambit, she doesn't look very badass doing it.

The demon is basically offering Pixie to get a piece of her soul back. What he wants in return is 'nothing of consequence' as he describes it. That should be a red flag to anybody. That's like the creepy guy in the windowless fan offering candy to kids. It should send anyone's bullshit sensor into overdrive, but Pixie seems to fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Maybe she'll do a turnaround in the next issue, but through two issues thus far she still comes off as a whiny, weak little brat. She's the weak link in an otherwise awesome comic and unfortunately, the issue ends with her taking this demon seriously. It almost makes the reader want to root for Death Gambit because at least he looks cool and doesn't whine like a little bitch.

While Pixie's lameness may bring down the issue, there is still plenty of awesome from the other characters to compensate. The first issue was the setup and this issue was the meat of the story and it was carried out wonderfully by Chris Yost in spite of Pixie's portrayal. This isn't just one big fight scene in Limbo. There is a plot full of mystery and intrigue here. It's more than enough to keep the reader wanting to know what happens next and how this battle is going to resolve itself.

It's only natural for comics like this to get lost in the glare of big events like Second Coming, but since Second Coming has faltered in recent issues it is a nice break to have a comic this good stem from it. It may not make up for the shortcomings in the main series, but it certainly adds to the overall awesomeness of the event. Factoring in the Pixie damage, this issue gets a 4 out of 5. It could have been nearly flawless in the way Blind Science was, but damn it if that Pixie can't ruin a no-hitter. She still has one issue left to redeem herself. As Second Coming draws to a close, Hellbound has the potential to really supplement the event. I originally wasn't going to follow these side-stories, but thanks to Chris Yost and this issue of Hellbound I'm in it to the very end! Nuff said!