Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Blog Update: Limited New Reviews

First off, I want to thank everybody who has been supporting this blog and my X-men Supreme fanfiction series. I really do appreciate it. However, I have some unfortunate news to share. In the real world I do have a job and that job has recently changed in a way that is going to make posting reviews to this blog exceedingly difficult. I would find a way to do it if the incentive was there, but in posting these long reviews with scans I'm getting very little in return. Very few people ever bother to post comments and more importantly, at least to me, it hasn't translated into hits on my website for X-men Supreme. These reviews are NOT easy to put together. They take hours of my time and my hope was that it would further enhance my X-men Supreme series. It hasn't. So for that reason, I'll be scaling back my reviews. There simply isn't enough reason for me to continue. I wanted this blog to support X-men Supreme more than anything else. That hasn't happened. I'm not getting hits or comments. So with no incentive and a job that's getting increasingly more hectic, I need to scale. I'm sorry for all those who enjoyed my reviews. But I just got so little feedback the effort does not justify the result. I hope you understand. Thanks again to all those who have supported this blog. I hope you continue to do so.

In other news, I did update my website. I added a bio page for Cameron Hodge. I meant to add it sooner, but I feel behind. It's there now and for anyone looking to fill in the blanks left by his story in the Uprising arc, this should do it.

Cameron Hodge - Bio

Thanks again everybody and take care.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #6 - Handicapped Yet Still Awesome

I know there are a ton of Spider-Man comics out there with bigger names, bigger sales, and more mature plots. I also know that only following Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, a book marketed to kids, will leave limited opportunities to see blood, boobs, and big explosions (the three B's of most awesome comics). But what can I do? Ultimate Spider-Man is shit because the damn art looks like something schizoid drew while in mid-seizure and I still haven't been able to read 616 Spider-Man after One More Day. I used to have a healthy Spider-Man addiction with my comics. Now this is all I get. While my wallet may be grateful, it says a lot when the only palatable Spider-Man is the Marvel Adventures series.

It helps that this series is still pretty damn awesome despite not having the three B's and being a kids book. It also helps that in brings in a number of other familiar faces from the Marvel Universe from time to time and does a pretty damn good job of it as well. There are times when it missteps, like the previous issue. However, it usually finds a way to bounce back. The last issue fell short because it was too painfully obvious that this was a kids book. Unlike previous issues, it wasn't subtle enough. But it did move the story along and this issue picks up right from the events of that issue. That may not be a good thing, but at least Paul Tobin is respecting the continuity and not making deals with the devil to get around it. Fuck you, Mephisto!

The scars of the previous issue are literally felt when Peter walks into school the next day looking all beat up and bruised. These are the marks left by Bullseye, who worked Peter over pretty well two issues earlier and not in the Full Metal Jacket sort of way either. He rights it off as a hard fall for when he was taking pictures of Spider-Man. There's even a flashback describing it, even though any kid reading this will know it's bullshit. But that's not a bad thing. At least Tobin is attentive to detail despite the nanosecond attention spans of kids who forgot to take their Ritalin.

He and his girlfriend, Chat, play along with the story around friends like Gwen and Carter Torino (the new guy who happens to be the grandson of a crime lord). At least they try to until he reminds Carter that his family is a bunch of douche-bag gangsters. This is worse considering that Gwen has the hots for Carter and for whatever reason Carter is trying hard NOT to be his father's son. It's a plot that has been unfolding slowly over the past two issues, but it's been unfolding too slowly in many ways. It's like the 800-pound gorrilla in the room with the six foot boner humping a pineapple. You can't ignore it forever. That pineapple won't hold up forever.

Peter and Chat leave that problem behind (again) and focus on more pressing issues. The biggest issue is how is Peter going to be Spider-Man when he's got a busted arm? Is he really going to measure up when he's practically handicapped? Well in this case the benefit of dating a mutant shows. Just like in Ultimate Spider-Man, it helps to have a girlfriend with superpowers to pick up the slack. Chat shows this when they come across two thugs trying to mug a couple and she deals with it by sending an army of animals after the two guys, presumably to bite, piss, and drool over them. In some respects, it's slightly less desirable than a beating by Spider-Man. But it works and shows Peter's love life can be a benefit and not a liability as is so often been shown in those other shitty comics that Mephisto jerks off to.

While things are working out nicely with Chat and Peter, it's easy to forget that the one person who brought them together sort of got the raw deal. That person is Emma Frost. Yeah, that Emma Frost. In this series she's a teenager like Chat and like Chat, she had the hots for Peter (seriously, how can a dork like him get so many hot women wanting to jump his bone?). She's not quite her White Queen vindictive self yet, but she is still a bitch and she doesn't have the baggage she does in the current X-men comics. So in that sense this is the most balanced Emma Frost since Joss Whedon was still writing Astonishing.

Since her introduction to this series, she's taken on the role of a vigilante who isn't a stripper for once. Instead, she's a crime fighting detective who calls herself the Blond Phantom. It's a pretty hot title for a woman that most everyone in the Marvel Universe wants to bone, but she's a lot more watered down here in the sense she's still a teenager and she's friends with Chat. However, things have been strained between them lately and this has left her conflicted. It seems strange that Emma Frost would have that much of a heart, but since there was no Hellfire Club to make her a bigger bitch than she already is it makes sense.

Emma's appearance seems random, but it's a foreboding of things to come. That's not the only round of foreboding. Peter has to get a pep talk from Captain Stacy, who is one of the few who knows Peter's identity. He talks about how Peter has to stay out of the action for a while. When his arm is in a sling, that seems pretty damn obvious. But this is Peter Parker. He has to play macho for a bit. It's kind of pathetic, but when you remember this is a teenage Peter Parker we're dealing with here it's perfectly in character.

As soon as Peter finishes his little conversation with Captain Stacy, he gets a quick reminder of how much it sucks to be sidelined. He's on his way home when he comes across a traditional GTA style carjacking. He's obviously tempted to do something about it. That never happens and rather than be the Spider-Man everyone not named Jameson knows and loves, Daredevil comes in to steal his thunder. It's a nice way to bring in other Marvel characters as this series has been so prone to do. It's also a nice way to remind Peter just how much it sucks to be out of the action. It's like being benched in a football game. He's essentially Drew Bledso watching while some punk named Tom Brady takes his place.

He gets a cheap thrill out of seeing Daredevil. He also gets some extra motivation as well. He goes back to Chat who is already feeling the stress of being Spider-Man's backup. She can't even pick out a costume or a codename. She's ill-prepared to be Spider-Man's replacement. In other words, she is JaMarcus Russel of the Oakland Raiders, completely unfit to step up only not an overweight drug addict. Now excuse me while I change my name and address to avoid crazy Raider fans.

Flash forward a day and his school is on a field trip to see something called the Octavious exhibit, a tribute to the world of Doctor Octavious before he went batshit insane. Yeah, like nothing can go wrong there. Again, it's not very subtle. This is a kids comic. Paul Tobin can't afford to be too smart with kids who probably haven't learned how to find Switzerland on a map yet. This may qualify as being too obvious even for kids because I doubt even they would be surprised when Doctor Octopus comes storming in looking to be the douche bag we all know and love.

This isn't something a bunch of animals can solve by biting and pooping. So Peter does exactly what Captain Stacy warned him not to do, showing yet again how little respect even teenage heroes have for the authorities. Despite his injuries, he suits up and goes to attack Doc Ock. Now too his credit, this is pretty badass because he's able to hold his own. Anytime a hero goes into fight handicapped they deserve a little cred. Not only that, he still manages to pull off his trademark one-liners. To be able to do that through what has to be some burning pain shows this Spider-Man is way more badass than the poorly drawn Ultimate or devil loving 616 version.

However, being badass isn't enough to win a fight. Spider-Man does need help with this one and he gets it. This time it's not from Chat's animals. It's from the friend who once screwed her over, Emma Frost. She finally makes the call, patches things up with her BFF, and Emma suits up as the Blond Phantom to come help Peter. At first Doc Ock isn't impressed. His reaction is the kind of reaction that would piss a ton of feminists off, but Emma proves to be remarkably cool and assertive as fans of hers know her to be. That alone makes this Emma Frost more in line with her character than the bombastic butchering Matt Fraction is doing with his current Uncanny run.

She not only flaunts her power by showing that her mind can basically bitchslap Doc Ocks until he believes he's five-year-old girl who just pissed himself at day care. He also shows that she can distract him and without flashing him her boobs (which would have been far more appropriate if this wasn't a kids comic). It works out nicely. Doc Ock is distracted by a pretty girl, Spider-Man sees a window to move in and punch Doc Ock out cold, and that's that. Emma doesn't even let Peter say thank you. She just gives him a kiss and runs off.

Now there are a lot of great rewards to being a hero in Marvel Comics. Those rewards can be praise, redemption, and respect. But there are a great many who would gladly sacrifice that and a few limbs for a kiss from Emma Frost. That only makes readers love and hate Peter Parker even more. Once again, he attracts more hot tail than a rich rock star underwear model with a doctorate from Yale. Some guys have all the luck.

It's a great way to end the story. Spider-Man beats the bad guys despite his injuries and gets a kiss form a hot blond. Overall, that's a pretty solid victory if ever there was one. Of course Chat doesn't like it. Another woman kissing her boyfriend doesn't sit well, even if it is a friend. It doesn't help that Peter can't wipe that goofy grin off his face. Who wouldn't be grinning after a kiss from Emma Frost? It's only fitting he get brought down a peg before his ego gets too big.

It all makes for an issue that feels very complete. This issue didn't hide from the previous issue even if it did suck. It also moved some long-standing plots forward, even if it wasn't by much in some areas. It even offers a compelling plot point that is underutilized even in the mainstream comics. It shows what Spider-Man has to do when Peter Parker is injured. It's great stuff that will make some think "Why the fuck do they tell this only in the fucking kids books and not the main books?" Well unlike those main books, this one doesn't suck.

There's not a lot to hate about this book. It shows equal amounts of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. It throws in some relationship drama and highlights the rough logistics of being a hero that so often go unnoticed. And it has Emma Frost. If that's not enough for you, then you're just being difficult. As I said earlier, it's easy for this series to bounce back from a lousy issue. This one certainly did and in a very big way. Paul Tobin once again shows that you don't need deals with the devil or shitty anime art to make a good Spider-Man comic. You just need Peter Parker, the women that love him, and some web-swinging action and that's it!

The final score for Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #6 is a well-deserved 5 out of 5. If you're a Spider-Man fan, you'll have little to be disappointed about here. If you're still bitter about One More Day and the shitty art of Ultimate, this is more than enough to scratch that spider itch. Nuff said.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Astonishing X-men Xenogenesis #3 - More Questions Than Awesome

I admit I didn't give Warren Ellis's cooky and visually nauseating mini, Astonishing X-men Xenogenesis, much of a chance after the first issue. Between the shitty art, the baseball uniforms, and a questionable connection to the continuity I was completely turned off. For a book written by Warren Ellis, that's saying something. Ellis is one of those rare comic writers who can turn shit into diamonds with his writing. It's not that he didn't do his job with Astonishing. The man can write dialogue. But in terms of plot and presentation, Astonishing X-men Xenogenesis is about as palpable as battery acid laced with bleach.

So why am I giving Astonishing X-men Xenogenesis #3 another chance? Well it's Warren Ellis! He's a guy who deserves more than his share of chances giving his track record. Plus, I would be a grade-A douche bag if I rejected a comic solely on the basis it looked bad while not giving the story a chance. I lampoon others for doing it. The last thing I want to be is a hypocrite. It helps that the cover of the third issue is pretty freakin' hilarious. If ever there was an image that summed up Cyclops and Emma Frost in recent comics, this is it. So why not? I'll take the ride again if Ellis is going to keep going.

So far the story has been fairly straightforward. The plot revolves around an African village having what appears to be a high rate of mutant births. Now it's not clear if these children are mutants, but they're enough like mutants for the Astonishing team to journey over and investigate. What they found with Scooby and the gang is that the births weren't the result of the X-gene. They were the result of a strange brand of radiation, which has always been the excuse in comics. It's the superhero equivalent of "my dog ate my homework." They try to help the children, but are then attacked by the local African dictator (which are about as common as crab grass over there). His name is Joshua N'Dingi, which sounds like a pretty cool African name. But he also goes by Dr. Crocodile, which more or less destroys any semblance of cool because that has to be the shittiest name for a doctor in history.

Dr. Crocodile proves to be as lame as his name when he takes a bunch of hostages and threatens to kill the mutated babies. It's enough to make the pro-life crowd's head explode. Killing babies ranks right up there with child molestation as one of the douchiest crimes an asshole can commit. Given this is a dictator, infanticide is practically an Olympic sport. However, the X-men don't take kindly to that kind of shit so they enter a standoff with the guy. Emma gets all his men to point the guns at himself while Cyclops confronts the poorly named dictator who looks like the bastard offspring of the terminator and a zombie.

It makes for a tense situation, but that tension quickly turns into boredom as the next few pages are spent talking. No fighting, no witty exchanges, and no flaunting of powers. They just talk. It's about as exciting as it sounds. Doc Crock plays the role of a Bond villain, foolishly explaining his plan and his whole life story as if he was sitting down and doing an interview for A&E. He tries to come off as a less than douchy guy for wanting to kill the mutant babies. He doesn't call them mutants though. He calls them warpies, which sounds way too lame for something to have come from the mind of Warren Ellis. The reason he calls them this is because they were the result of a radiation burst known as "The Jaspers Warp." Now that actually sounds pretty cool. Definitely worthy of the Warren Ellis label, but Crock still hasn't said much to make him less a douche-bag.

He does provide a bit of a flashback though. Apparently his previous job was to actually take care of these kids. However, one of them ended up exploding. And I'm not talking about the kind of exploding babies usually do when you feed them meatballs laced with hot sauce that earns parents handwritten thank-you letters from diaper companies. I'm talking about actual boom boom explosions. One of them left Doc Crock the half-man, half-robot, full douche-bag he is now. So in that sense he has a reason not to like these kids.

He keeps going on and on for pages at a time, basically ranting about how he has to protect his people from these babies and that requires him to make very difficult decisions. It shows he's not a Josef Stalin-esque monster. He's like any African dictator and that he justifies any cruel actions as doing what's best for his people. Several African nations have probably sent death threats to Ellis already, but they'll do the same to anyone who sneezes on them. Basically Doc Croc throws his hands up and says the X-men can take the babies, which would make him the shittiest Bond villain of all time. But the X-men surprisingly say no. They don't just want to save the babies. They want to find the source of this shit. Moreover, they want Croc and his band of douche-bags to help them.

It's a questionable request, but the kind Ellis loves to use in his stories. He gets two opposing sides to work around each other rather than just beat each other senseless. Michael Bay fans may not approve, but it makes for a more refined story that requires more than just three brain cells to appreciate. So with Doc Croc begrudgingly helping the X-men, they venture off into the jungle where a disturbance has been detected. Granted, the timing seems a little too convenient. Ellis is usually good at not making things sound contrived, but after pages upon pages of talking it's somewhat a relief to get things going again.

As expected, the X-men take the early lead. They prove to have a much better training regiment than any African army. That and being able to fly probably helps. They search the jungle and don't have to search for very long. Here things get a little hazy because it's not clear what the hell they're searching for. In this case they find a guy who looks like Bruce Banner after he was given a makeover by Charles Manson. It's really not clear who the fuck this guy is and what he's up to. It's not a monster or killer robot so it doesn't come off as threatening, but it's still the most action this book has seen so far. How sad is that?

It does get a little messy though because keep in mind, the X-men have to work with Doc Crocs trigger-happy thugs. That means when they see this guy, they don't ask questions. They frantically shoot. It's standard operating protocol for soldiers in comics. The PR staff for the US military hates it and many brave men and women are probably insulted. But it's a comic. It wouldn't be as exciting if someone didn't get shot.

This isn't some random guy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time after a 3 day bender. His name is Jim Jaspers, which if you stayed awake during the long conversation with Doc Croc should ring a few bells. Remember that whole "Jaspers Warp?" Well this guy has the same name and is running through the jungle. Seems logical that he would have at least some knowledge. Too bad he got shot though. He doesn't sound anywhere near as douchy as Doctor Crocodile.

It seems like a sad moment for the guy. He's been shot and he's stuck in the jungle. That seems like a pretty bad day if ever there was one. Jaspers looks like he truly wants help and the X-men, having not been the ones to shoot the guy, try to offer it. But there's one little problem with that. Remember how I said earlier that it wasn't too clear why they were after this guy and how he could be the source of the disturbance? Well that's answered right here. It turns out this guy is packing some major heat that Astonishing fans will probably recognize. Nuclear bombs are so messy. The Ghost Box kicks way more ass!

That's right. Somehow this guy is the Ghost Box's new bitch. Being shot sort of agitated him and that sort of made the Ghost Box mad. Unlike Bruce Banner, whose anger only turns him into a raging beast. Hell, meth does the same thing. This Jasper guy has to one-up the Hulk. Rather than turning into a steroid-loving beast, he turns into a big shiny box. It sounds lame, but it shows how ominously awesome it is when it opens to reveal an army of killer robots. NOW the Michael Bay fans can cheer! It took a whole issue but there's finally some less subtle forms of action. Granted, it's still robots and it took way too long to get to this point, but you can't completely hate Ellis for taking his time. It's just a matter of taking too much and overestimating the average person's nanosecond attention span.

So what can be said about Astonishing X-men Xenogenesis #3? Is it the kind of book that will make win over the critics of this exceedingly bizarre series? Probably not. And that's not just because most readers are stubborn. This book offers some substance, but not nearly enough to make it up to par with Warren Ellis's usual caliber of awesome. It's slow and tedious for half the book. There are more conversations than fights and while the dialogue is great as it always is with Ellis, it seems more drawn out than it should be. There were some confusing parts at times as well, but they did get explained so it's not like there isn't a coherent and novel concept here.

The biggest issue with this book is that it's still too much an anomaly. It really is hard to tell just where this book fits into the greater Marvel Universe if at all. It's nice that it took the story from the Ghost Box and all, but even that version of Astonishing was hard to fit into the grand scheme of things as well. Xenogenesis comes off too much like an X-men Forever title and not something that adds to the sum of awesome that the other X-books are giving. It's like Marvel is just putting it out for the sake of putting it out. In that sense it's like the high school slut. It's out there and people can partake, but their mileage may vary.

This book doesn't suck. That's probably the best you can say about it. Warren Ellis's books rarely suck, but they do have a high bar and this one didn't even come close to measuring up. That's why I can only give Astonishing X-men Xenogenesis #3 a 2.5 out of 5. It's not terrible to make diarrhea jokes at, but it's not good enough to compare to Tera Patrick's rack. It's the middle of the road. It's the Switzerland of comics. It won't thrill you or bore you too much. I'll just kill about twenty minutes of your time and that's it. Nuff said.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Uncanny X-men #528 - Better But Barely

The last time I reviewed Uncanny X-men I to keep a thesaurus by my desk to help me find new words for things such as "disappointment" and "downgrade." Apparently, the English language is limited in a lot of respects. There only so many syllables you can use to lampoon a comic that was fell so incredibly short of the mark that if it were a football team the Detroit Lions would route it by double digits in a nationally televised game. Perhaps I was too harsh on Matt Fraction. The man does love his job and these characters, almost too much in some cases. But he seemed to let some of that love get int he way of his writing. The good thing about comics though is that unless your name is Chuck Austin, you always get another chance with the next issue.

Uncanny X-men #527 was brought down by terrible characterization, especially in that of Emma Frost. It's not like the book was Ultimate style horrible, but it was pretty lousy given how high the bar was set by Second Coming. Uncanny X-men #528 has the job of coming in to clean up some of the mess done by the previous issue. It also has to move the whole Five Lights story along. For any writer that's a challenge. It's like auditioning for American Idol with 10,000 Simon Cowells as the judge. But Fraction has shown some balls before and pulled it off. Can he do it again?

Uncanny X-men #528 starts by introducing the third of the five lights. This time the light is a 12-year-old girl from Nigeria named Idie Okankwo. In a nutshell, she's the bastard love child of Iceman and Firestar if Iceman and Firestar had two African parents in their family tree. She can freeze people and burn people. She's basically a two-for-one elemental. Yeah, there are any number of fire or ice super-powered beings in comics and adding another one is like pissing into a toilet that's already full of shit. But this girl is offering a two-for-one deal! In this troubled economy, you gotta go after bargains!

Like the other two lights, her powers didn't manifest in a very subtle way. She's frozen and burned people who tried to kill her for being a witch. In Nigeria where all those wonderful scams about inheriting money from dead relatives come from, there's also a very strong "witches suck" sentiment and when people start freezing and burning around you that's bad news. Then we find out from storm the men responsible for dealing with witches killed Idie's family and laughed while they did it, so you don't feel too sorry for the assholes she burned and froze. Plus, Storm and Hope make a hell of an entrance that probably put some extra hair on artist Wilche Portatio's chest. If you're still bitter about the last issue, this should lay some of those feelings to rest and put a smile on your face if you like seeing Storm be a badass and not a Wakandan housewife.

As much as you want to keep seeing Storm kick ass, books like this need to delegate some time to real-world issues. In this case Bobby Drake steps up in a role that's more serious than anything he's done since he banged Mystique. He understands that like every controversial group, mutants need a good PR agent. If it's good enough for Lindsey Lohan, it's good enough for the X-men and carries only half the level of drug use. Now that mutants aren't going extinct anymore, they need to get a little love back from the public. He has the unfortunate task of pitching to a PR woman named Kate Kildare how the X-men now have Magneto with them in addition to all the other mutants on the island. That's like a football team saying they just welcomed OJ Simpson back on their team. It's an uphill struggle to say the least and you gotta feel for Kate, who probably wish she majored in finance in college at this point..

This is all well and good for Uncanny and does move the story along, but you know at one point Fraction was going to have to address the elephant made out of whale shit in the corner of the room. That elephant with tits that might as well be on an elephant is Emma Frost, a character who was so poorly characterized in the last issue it might as well have been published by the National Inquirer. It was Fraction's biggest shortcoming of that issue and it's what needed the biggest remedy.

To spare others from having to read that issue, Emma was basically lamenting at how she kept Sebastian Shaw alive when she said she would kill him for Namor. Now she's keeping him in a holding cell on Utopia and only she and Danger know about it. Even though Namor wants in her panties, he'll want to cut her throat if he finds out about Shaw. She knows this and would prefer to be rid of Shaw in the same way Iran prefers to be rid of Israel.

Speaking of Namor, he's got his own problems in this issue. In the previous issue the most depth he showed was in his love of sushi. Here we're actually reminded this guy is the fucking king of Atlantis and like any king, he has people looking to fuck with him. He meets with some of his advisers, who sense just as much as the reader that he wants to bone Emma Frost (but seriously, who doesn't?) and that's keeping him immersed in the affairs of the surface world. Like any king with an appetite for pretty girls, he doesn't respond too kindly and shows some backbone (not a sexual innuendo this time). He reminds his crew he's still the top pimp and they better listen to him. It's nice to see Namor being king again, but if even his people know he's being pussy whipped he's got a problem.

Back in Africa, Storm and Jean Gre-I mean Hope Summers (sorry, I still can't tell them apart) continue to demonstrate why they're so awesome. They confront Idie, who shows the genuine fear of a 12-year-old girl. It's a great moment for Matt Fraction because he writes this perfectly. Idie is doing what a lot of people do when shit goes south. She prays for help. Since her god is still on a bender from from that whole Spanish Inquisition shit, Storm and Je-I mean Hope (sorry, still can't tell) answer her prayers. Show me a god that responds by sending two beautiful women to solve your problems and I'll show you a god every guy on this planet can get behind. Even so, Idie is going emo on them and losing her grip on life and everything in between.

Back to Emma. Fraction's been putting her off long enough. In the last issue she entered a new level of complete and total bitch when she basically yelled at Colossus and the still permanently phased Shadowcat (who has been stuck like this since Uncanny 522). Since then she's been helping them communicate and mind hump each other. Kitty's vocal chords are intangible so she can't exactly have phone sex with the guy. Telepathy is all they got. It robs readers of a chance at the witty exchanges that made Kitty and Emma such a lovable pair during the Joss Whedon run. However, it seems they get their chance again because Emma leaked some thoughts about Shaw to Kitty. And she has to push Colossus out so they can have a little pep talk.

Whedon fans are forced to wait just a bit longer because there is other shit going on that deals with the main plot in this story. No wait...actually, the next scene doesn't have to do with any of the shit that's been happening in this book or the previous issues. It's just a scene with Northstar and Dazzler beating up Nekra and Frenzy after they blow up an art museum, presumably because there weren't enough nudes. It makes for a short and underdeveloped fight scene, which seems completely useless even if it does get a nice butt-shot of Dazzler. But it's one of those scenes that will have most readers scratching their heads. What exactly is the point of this scene? Why was it important to show at this point when this precious ink could be dedicated to more important matters like Emma Frost's tits? I'm assuming it has something to do with that PR plot Bobby started earlier, but there's nothing linking that with this. Not that I have anything against Dazzler or Northstar, but this seems as random as a cat playing a piano (yes, I know that's a hit youtube video and all, but it's still random).

Getting back to more serious matters, Storm and J-I mean Hope (shit, I still can't tell them apart!) finally reach Idie. Just like with the previous lights, all it takes is a nice hug from from a beautiful redhead and all their problems are solved. Somewhere Barney is getting a boner. It's a beautiful spectacle and one that shows Whilce Portacio should be very proud of.

Not one to forgive and forget, Idie makes those assholes who killed her family pay by showing her the kind of witchcraft she employs. The armed men that would probably only be competent in a Forest Whittiker movie don't stand a chance. She's a bit overwhelmed as most 12-year-olds would be, given at 12 most kids feel overwhelmed by the monkey bars at recess. Since her parents are dead and she's not welcome in her homeland anymore, Storm and Hope (I remembered this time!) offer her a place with the X-men. It's the same scene that played out with the other two lights. Granted, this didn't vary very much, but it was still a nice spectacle and Fraction got the most out of it.

Finally, it's Emma again. You get the sense Fraction is avoiding addressing her after making her such a huge bitch in the last issue. But he avoids making her a bigger bitch this time around. Emma and Kitty discuss Emma's problem. Kitty found out through Emma's slip of the mind that she's keeping Shaw alive. That means she's in a bad position with a chief ally of the X-men whose primary reason for helping them revolves around his desire to sleep with her. There isn't as much witty exchange as Whedon fans would like, but there is definitely some of that old Frost/Pryde chemistry here and Fraction to his credit does his best to capture it. It ends a bit too soon though with a somewhat surprising revelation by Kitty. She wants to help Emma get rid of Shaw. It's not as big a twist as it would have been if Kitty came out and said she was bi and fantasized about Emma as much as all the guys did. But it's still a pretty intriguing revelation that opens the door for more plot development in the next issue.

So the issue is over and not once have I had to go to my thesaurus to say how disappointed I was with this issue. After Uncanny X-men #527 there was plenty of room to go up and Fraction definitely did some redeeming things with this story. His characterization of Emma Frost wasn't a total turn-around, but it didn't suck this time around. The story with Idie Okankwo was nicely done even if it was overly predictable. Plus the book deserves some credit for getting Kitty Pryde involved again.

While this was an upgrade I did get somewhat of a dry feeling from this and I'm not talking about the kind of feeling you get when you see the Detroit Lions with a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter and just know they're going to screw it up. Since Fraction began his run, he's done a great job of telling big stories with big impacts. However, his flaws revolve around his predictability. Throughout Uncanny his characterization of Cyclops and Emma Frost is as nauseating as it is expected. He won't do anything in any capacity to make them seem flawed or less awesome than they should be. He props Cyclops up to be the man with the plan and props Emma up as the new Jean Grey whose name isn't Hope, the big breasted bimbo who just stands by Cyclops and oogles how much she loves him and how she has none of her edge anymore. Because of this, some of the plots that emerge simply don't get very exciting because readers know Fraction will never do anything to make them seem less perfect. That's why Namor's desire to bone Emma doesn't trigger any excitement on whether or not she'll give in. Readers know Fraction won't let that happen. Just as was the case with Utopia, he'll find a way to make it so Cyclops and Emma just kiss and make up at the end. It's a total farce because writers will find ways to screw up iconic couples like Peter and Mary Jane or Cyclops and Jean Grey, but when it comes to throwing some conflict into Cyclops and Emma Frost they're complete pussies.

With that in mind, it's pretty easy to see how this will end up. Emma will screw up her plan with Shaw. Namor will find out. He'll go batshit insane and try to kill her. Cyclops will swoop in and save the day and he and Emma will hump their problems away. Because Matt Fraction is writing this shit, you know there isn't a chance at all that Emma Frost will be anything short of Miss Tragic Hottie. Even though he's set up so many ways in which the Cyclops/Emma Frost dynamic could enter conflicts, he's done jack shit with them and his bias will not allow him to do anything beyond just giving them excuses to kiss and make up.

I hope I'm wrong, but Fraction has shown me no reason to believe he'll be any less predictable. This along with the PR scene and the fight with Dazzler and Northstar, and this book does have it's share of shortcomings. But unlike the last book, it's hard to say it sucks. So I'm giving Uncanny X-men #528 a 3.5 out of 5. I can't be terribly disappointed, but if Fraction is going to do anything special I'll believe it when I see it. Until then, I'm trying to live with the less than exciting expect the expected. It's not easy, but that's what LSD is for. Nuff said.

Friday, September 24, 2010

X-men Supreme Issue 20: Uprising Part 4 is LIVE!

It's that time again! I spend so much time ranting about X-men in other mediums, but I never forget about my own X-men series! The final issue of the Uprising arc and the next to last issue of X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution is ready! This fanfiction series has turned into more than I ever hoped for. So has this blog, even if the comic reviews seem to be the main draw. I've been thrilled by those few who have been nice enough to provide support and I've worked hard to make this X-men series the best it can be. This four-part saga has been the biggest yet for X-men Supreme and I'm honored to present it to all those who have come to enjoy this fanfiction series as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

Issue 20: Uprising Part 4

The end of this arc marks the culmination of many different plots that have been growing since the beginning. It will help set the stage for a new status quo for Volume 2. Don't expect everything to end all nice and tidy. The events in this series thus far will have a deep impact on the world of X-men Supreme. Marvel Universe 1015 will be undergoing some major shifts. The nature of those shifts will become clearer in the final issue. Until then, I hope you enjoy this next to last entry of my humble experiment in X-men fandom! As always, I strongly encourage everybody to post reviews for each issue or contact me with feedback. The more I get, the better my fanfiction will be! Stay tuned for more updates to the pics section and bio page. Excelsior!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CBR X-Position: Victor Gischler - My Question Asked

I know I make a big deal of it every time my question gets asked in an interview. Call me immature, childish, or a giddy fanboy. I've heard it all before and I'm beyond giving a shit. I can't help it! I get a cheap thrill whenever my question is asked to someone who actually controls the direction of awesome in a comic. X-POSITION with Comic Book Resources has been good to me. It's asked my questions a number of times and for that I can only be eternally grateful. That gratitude continues with the most recent X-POSITION involving the writer of the adjectiveless X-men, Victor Gischler.

Now this is a hell of an X-POSITION to get involved with because originally, no one was more skeptical about this series than I was. Calling a series X-men #1 just seemed like a cheap gimmick to get any old comic to sell. The first issue sure didn't measure up, but I've been eating my words with every issue since. The whole mutants vs. vampires story has genuinely blown me away better than three Las Vegas escorts. I don't usually get that surprised with my books, but I'm humble enough to admit when I'm full of shit. As such, I owed it to show my support and ask some decent questions and since CBR has such awesome people working for it they published it.

CBR: X-Position - Victor Gischler

MarvelMaster616, on the other hand, would like to the vampire insanity brought to other books. Is there anything you can share regarding this?

1) I've been enjoying the whole Mutants vs. Vampires arc a great deal, and I like how you've made the Marvel Vampires awesome again. But I was wondering…once this story is over, will the end result have further ramifications throughout the Marvel Universe? Dracula's return sounds like something that should definitely cause a few ripples.

The Marvel secret police don't tell me those kinds of secrets, but my gut instinct is that vampires will be around causing more trouble in the Marvel U. The whole point of the "Death of Dracula" one-shot was to juice up Marvel U vamps and make them worthy of our attention again. I can't say where or how (because I don't know), but I really do think you'll see our new vamp pals popping up again sooner or later.

2) It's been well-documented that Dracula has a history with Storm and has shown some interest in Emma Frost as well (and who can blame him?). Will he try using his vampire charm on other women of the X-Men? After all, vampires are all the rage now, and who's to say the X-women aren't susceptible to it?

Dracula is charming and one never knows when or where he'll cast his hypnotic gaze, but he's got his hands a bit too full for hanky-panky at the moment…or does he? Well, yes.

His first answer offers me plenty of hope. Others may have tired of the whole vampire fad, but I'm all for the Marvel Universe sucking every drop of blood from the blood-suckers hype. After this arc is over, I'll be more than happy to see guys like Dracula leave their mark on the rest of the Marvel Universe. However, the next answer was a big disappointing. As a rampant True Blood fan, I'm all for vampires getting freaky with non-vampire women. Dracula in the Marvel Universe has shown to be quite a player with a taste in X-women. He already tried to bump uglies with Storm. Then he flirted with Emma Frost. With the likes of Edward Cullen and Bill Compton in the literary world, why shouldn't Dracula measure up? Seems like a waste.

Oh well, the mutants vs. vampires story is still pretty awesome. I'll keep following it until it stops being awesome, which in comics can happen. From what Gischler has shown, he doesn't look to pull a Clone Saga. Until it does, I'm on board! Nuff said.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Deadpool #27 - Returning to Awesome Form

I know it sounds like I cut some heavy slack to the comics I inherently love, but I can be a hardass when I have to. The last time I reviewed a Deadpool comic I didn't hide my disappointment. I made just as many poop jokes to lampoon it as if it were another shitty Ultimate book, albeit not nearly as severe. Deapool is usually one of those comics you can rely on being entertaining month in and month out. For one to slip up like Deadpool #26 did, someone was either drunk on the job or someone lost a shitload playing fantasy football at the Marvel offices. There's no way around it. The story with Deadpool and Ghost Rider in the last issue sucked ass. It was poorly done, poorly executed, and nowhere near as entertaining as a Deadpool comic should be. It deserved a shitty score and it earned readers the right to be a little skeptical with the next book.

Luckily, Deadpool is one of those comics that can easily redeem itself with a single issue. Since Deadpool is such a wacky and bat-shit crazy character, there's no need for it to flow or remain completely consistent. If it were then that would completely go against the purpose of Deadpool. So for that reason I didn't hesitate to give Deadpool #27 a chance. It promises to continue the strong of miniature crossovers that has been done to death in Deadpool comics. The last one involved Ghost Rider and it sucked. This one involves the Secret Avengers. So does it measure up?

Well it starts off simply enough. Deadpool is trying to buy a burrito with gold at a gas station. Really, if any part of that surprises you then you haven't been reading Deadpool comics for very long. The guy behind the counter looks like a stereotypical Arab the politically incorrect crowd would expect to find working at a gas station. While MoveOn.org sues Marvel and Michael Moore goes into crying fits, it does make for a fairly typical dilemma that Deadpool faces.

Beyond the burrito, it stands to reason that he'll face another typical dilemma at one point. It comes in the form of a robbery that for once he doesn't start. He doesn't seem to notice it at first, as is often the case when faced with the prospect of a burrito. But a bunch of masked men from the Department of Homeland Security showed up behind him and they're prepared to do some "enhanced interrogation" for whatever Bush-appointed crony the CIA and NSA happen to be blowing at the moment.

Guys with guns against Deadpool has only one inevitable outcome and that's a full blown gunfight. Now at this point it's not clear who these guys are and what they're after. They look like any thug the Department of Homeland Security would slap ski-masks on and call "Freedom Fighters," but remember this is a Deadpool comic. Shit has a way of making little to no sense at first. It's made all the more crazy when the soldiers in question show healing factors. That reveals they may be a bit more than typical Bush cronies and it also gives Deadpool an excuse to use high explosives (as if he ever needs one).

It doesn't take long for the gunfight to take another twist. During the fight, Deadpool slips into a secret passage that you wouldn't expect to find in a gas station. Usually a secret passage like that only leads to an oversized porno collection. Instead it leads to something else that will have the far left bitching endlessly. That cashier from earlier wasn't just your typical red-blooded American. He was an Arab selling weapons. Before I finish writing this sentence, Nancy Palosi is writing a letter to the ACLU.

The man tires to play the victim. He tries not to come off as the ruthless Arab terrorists that Fox News can't resist playing clips of every five seconds. Deadpool, assuming he's not a Fox News fan, gives him a chance to explain himself. He doesn't end up getting it because those American shock troopers from earlier find their way into the passage and confront them. The cashier plays coward and hides behind a heavy barrier, leaving Deadpool to do the explaining.

Now it's not too clear what is said, but most of the words come in the form of bullet wounds. Since both Deadpool and the masked soldiers regenerate, shooting each other is about as effective as throwing silly putty. Eventually they start talking with words. The guys in the mask claim to be patriots after the cashiers weapons. The cashier claims NOT to be a terrorist. Deadpool, not known for his reasoning skills, is understandably confused.

They go back and forth. The cashier claims he's the victim. The CIA gave him these weapons and wanted him to sell them in his country. He refused. He wanted to take them and sell them in America where they go for more, thus giving Uncle Sam a nice Cleveland Steamer in the process. The masked men don't buy it. They say he's just a thug selling to other thugs. Deadpool can't decide who is the terrorist. Then the guest stars enter the picture in another shameless crossover. This time it's Captain America and the Secret Avengers, who by most measures are a step up from Ghost Rider.

They take out the masked men and Steve Rogers gives Deadpool a hard slug as well. He doesn't seem to mind. In fact, it triggers some flashbacks to him as a kid idealizing Captain America. For him, it would be like a Star Trek fan getting punched by William Shatner. That fan will never wash his face again.

Since Deadpool is out, Captain America and his Secret Avengers make quick work of the soldiers. This is a guy who took on the freakin' Nazis in a way that Call of Duty fans can only masterbate to. It's not much of a fight to say the least.

Then comes another twist. This time it's the cashier. He finally comes clean. It turns out he's not the innocent victim of post 9/11 bigotry. For once the assholes at Fox News get what they want. The creepy store clerk at the gas station is a terrorist. And not just any terrorist either. He's a terrorist with a giant freakin' robot suit. In terrorist circles, that's like being the guy that had a three way with Hallie Berry and Jennifer Lopez.

It looks like he's setting the stage for an epic struggle against the Secret Avengers. Then in the span of a single panel it ends in a humiliating and somewhat appropriate manner for a Deadpool comic. Deadpool, now fully recovered from Captain America's punch, gets up and casually shoots the guy in the head. Apparently, the terrorists are still way behind the curve when it comes to robot armor suits. They don't understand that not protecting the head of the wearer makes these things about as vulnerable as a compact car in a monster truck show. All it took was one bullet and that was it. America is safe again. Fox News can keep gloating.

There's not much to resolve from here. Deadpool's little save earned him some brownie points with Steve Rogers. For him, shooting a terrorist earns you about two gold stars in the patriot handbook. Deadpool still swoons around him the way Lady Gaga swoons at a gay rights rally. He looks pretty goofy, but he's Deadpool. He does it in a way that's still awesome. Then Captain America does yet another twist and asks if Deadpool wants to work for him. That's like a heavy metal fan being asked to be lead guitar for Metallica. Deadpool's response is to be expected. He makes a total fool of himself, thereby making for the most fitting end to this book.

Going back to what I said earlier, it's easy for one Deadpool comic to make up for a shitty one. Compared to the last issue with Ghost Rider, this was like shit turning to gold. It was worlds better. It didn't let itself get bogged down by the events of the previous book. It didn't try to start some epic new arc. It just told a nice, crazy Deadpool story.

Granted, it was heavy on the twists and politically incorrect in so many areas. If this book was read by Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck, it would be covered in their semen by the end of the second reading. So long as you're not the politically sensitive type, you'll still enjoy this issue for what it offers. It shows Deadpool at his best, being badass and goofy in all the ways that make him so lovably awesome. It also sets the stage for some new stories that have him joining Steve Rogers for a bit. Now it certainly doesn't sound like a recipe for a very successful partnership. It'll be nothing short of a miracle if it lasts more than one issue. But it offers plenty more reasons to get the next issue compared to the last one.

Overall, this was a great rebound from the previous issue. Deadpool remains one of those special comics that readers should always give a chance because it has it's own style that stay entertainingly awesome even if it does make a few missteps. For improving mightily and reminding readers why they love this series, Deadpool #27 gets a 4.5 out of 5. If you love Deadpool, killing terrorists, or are generally a right-winger you'll love this book. Nuff said!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Uncanny X-men Getting New Writer - Kieron Gillen

I meant to post this sooner (like anybody gives a shit), but some big news recently emerged regarding one of the X-men's flagship titles. For the past few years Uncanny X-men has been guided by the wacky and sometimes offbeat pen of Matt Fraction. Uncanny has quickly taken over the role Astonishing once played as THE comic to follow for the biggest X-men events. It's been the comic that introduced the X-men to San Francisco, put them on Utopia, and set the stage for Second Coming. It has also been the comic where the events proceeding Second Coming has unfolded. Now the news has come out that Uncanny will be getting a new co-writer. Fraction isn't leaving, but now he has someone looking over his shoulder and that someone is Kieron Gillen.

CBR: Kieron Gillen joins Fraction on Uncanny X-men

Now for the most part, Matt Fraction has done a damn good job with Uncanny. He has plenty of detractors, but you don't get the Uncanny X-men job without being pretty good at it. He's always been great at telling big plot-driven stories with a lot of action and he's great with witty dialogue (for certain characters anyways). There are also the sales, the life-blood of any comic. Marvel has shown repeatedly that they could give six truckloads of donkey shit how much fans and critics hate a comic, but if the sales are good they'll embrace it like a drunk college girl wearing a black lace thong. Matt Fraction has kept Uncanny a top seller and has gotten his fair share of praise from fans and critics alike. However, he's not without his problems.

One of the most glaring and egregious problems with his writing involves his characterization skills. To be brief, he has none when it comes to the characters he claims are his favorites. Nowhere is this more apparent than Cyclops and Emma Frost. These two characters benefited the most from Joss Whedon's pen during his run on Astonishing. Well that was completely flip-flopped with Matt Fraction. He claims to love Cyclops, Emma, and their relationship. Yet he's done more to make fans hate these characters and their relationship than almost any other writers.

It starts with his clear and almost blatant bias. The man has no subtlety. You can tell in his writing he loves Cyclops and Emma more than the other X-men. He goes out of his way to make them sound like they're inhumanly cool, coming at the expense of who they truly are. He's turned Cyclops into this Gary-Stu douche-bag who is always right, always awesome, and always competent. It's a long ways away from the insecure yet honorable guy from the past. Joss Whedon made it a point to show that Cyclops was a strong leader, but he did have some personal struggles that made him more human and that's what made him great. Fraction has done none of this, only making him seem like the coolest kid on the block and that just doesn't fit Scott Summers.

Then there's Emma Frost. We all love talking about Emma Frost, unless of course she's being written by Fraction. Since the Grant Morrison run, Emma has been one of the most intriguing and interesting characters in X-men. It also helps she's very easy on the eyes. However, a large part of her character is driven by her harsh personality. That personality has been pretty much ass-raped by Matt Fraction. Since he came on board, his love of the Cyclops/Emma relationship has turned it into something completely different compared to what Morrison and Whedon set up. There's none of the unique chemistry they once had. Emma is now essentially Cyclops's arm candy. She's the hot blond who always supports him, always forgives him, and never calls him out. She's basically been domesticated. She shows none of her usual personality or wit. She has none of the mean, cold-heartedness that made her so awesome during Morrison's run. She's just the loving hot blond who spreads her legs for the man in charge.

Even worse, Fraction has set up chances to make the relationship more interesting. He had Emma seemingly betray the X-men during Utopia and he introduced Namor as a potential love interest that cold make for a new classic love triangle. But he's done nothing with this. It turns out Emma never betrayed anyone and even after she found out about the secrets Scott had been keeping, they basically just kissed and made up and that's it. No conflict or growth came of it. Then Namor comes along and despite the fact he still very much wants to bone her and they have had some serious chemistry in the past, pretty much nothing is done with it. Matt Fraction seems allergic to any story that would make Cyclops and Emma less than a perfect couple. This completely ignores the premise that Whedon embraced on his run in that Cyclops and Emma weren't the perfect couple. They were nowhere near as close or loving as Cyclops was with Jean Grey. That's part of the appeal. Fraction, despite claiming to love Cyclops/Emma, has basically turned them into Cyclops/Jean except Jean Grey would never have been so casual about her lover's activities with X-Force.

It seems the longer Fraction writes Uncanny, the more Cyclops and Emma Frost suffer as characters. Well now it seems like there's finally hope for Cyclops and Emma fans. Kieron Gillen is coming on board in a way very similar to which Matt Fraction came aboard. He joined Ed Brubaker after Messiah Complex as a co-writer. Eventually, he got the main job. Kieron Gillen is coming on board while also working on a series called Generation Hope that is spinning right out of the events of Uncanny. It makes sense that he would be involved because his series is tied to Uncanny. So it would make even more sense that if the two series ever came together, he would be the one to do so. This also factors in how Fraction has more on his plate besides Uncanny. He's also working on Iron Man and Thor. So it's not unreasonable to think that when push comes to shove, he'll have to drop a title in order to focus on others. The last thing the X-men series needs at this point is Ultimates style delays.

This is, of course, all speculation. I could be talking out of my ass as I so often do. But the arrival of Kieron Gillen offers some hope that some of Fraction's misgivings will finally be over with. The man has done a great deal for Uncanny, but his take has run it's course. Someone else needs to come on board who can make good use of some of the plots he won't touch like Emma/Namor. There's no indication as to what Kieron Gillen's tastes and proclivities are, but he'll definitely get his chance when he begins his run in December. Then come 2011, he may be the main man on the Uncanny X-men campus. Only time will tell. He's got a familiar looking redhead to use and plenty of loose plots that Fraction won't ever touch. Overall, there's plenty to work with. Nuff said.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Batman Beyond #4 - Secrets and Setbacks

Batman Beyond has done a lot to try and recapture the magic of the old TV show. It's also done a lot to try and be like a real Batman comic and not be some cheap gimmick that has people going "Ooh, it's Batman...from the future! Wow! Take my money!" To do this the Batman Beyond series has focused heavily not on the hardcore action or fighting of the show, but on the old school mystery element that made the Batman comics so epic. And I'm not talking about the mind-bending Lost style awesome that requires three doses of LSD and two doses of meth to at least partially follow. I'm talking about the classic mystery we got tested in back in grade school with motive, clues, and what not. Even though I got a D- on those tests, Batman Beyond is a mystery written in a way that is easy to follow and pretty damn awesome.

The mystery in this mini centers around the new Batman, Terry McGinnis, trying to uncover the truth behind a string of murders involving Batman's old enemies. The face behind these murders is supposedly Hush, the classic Batman villain who had ties to the early life of Bruce Wayne. However, that would be a bit of a stretch and not just because the guy is supposed to be dead. This is 40 years in the future and Bruce is old as dirt. Since Hush came after him when he was still in his prime, he should be withering with osteoporosis and pissing into a bag. So what's going on here? That's the question Terry has to answer.

Batman Beyond #4 brings where the last issue ended. Hush was confronting yet another old Batman villain (at least an updated version) in Catwoman. He had been getting help from her in his screwing-with-Batman plan and to no one's surprise, he looks to screw her over and not in a way you could make Viagra commercials about. There's still no clue as to who this new Catwoman is. She doesn't offer any hints, only that she's not related to the old Catwoman. Yeah, that's really helpful. But before Hush can finish the job, Batman shows up. However, it's not the old Batman or even the new Batman. It's a robot Batman. Don't get too excited though. It's not as awesome as it sounds.

So Hush is only fooled for a very brief moment. He's about as impressed as the readers probably are when it comes to Batman using a robot. It's not even a very good robot either. Terminator fans who may be reading this will scoff at how ineffective this robo-Batman is because Hush only takes one blow before out-smarting the machine (take that Skynet!). Well he doesn't exactly outsmart it. The damn thing malfunctions like the Windows Vista beta version. It's pretty underwhelming and with all those billions, you would think Bruce would have at least tried to work out the kinks.

While robo-Batman is giving himself a bad name, new Batman is still working the mystery angle with another old Batman ally, Dick Grayson. This is a character that never showed up in the TV show so it's nice to finally see him in the world of Batman Beyond. He's got some white hair going like the rest of the old Batman cast and like Tim Drake he's left pretty embittered by Bruce. He still made a new life for himself, teaching gymnastics and acrobatics. Terry's only mildly impressed. He gets right to the good-cop/bad-cop routine, asking for an alibi since Dick is one of the very few who knows Batman's secrets. If Tim Drake could go a little nuts, why couldn't Dick? Well he does offer an alibi and he also offers some insight into his history. While he doesn't have the rogue's gallery Batman has in his cave, he did keep one of his old uniforms (albeit riddled with bullet holes).

Dick has the potential to offer some vital clues while filling in some of the blanks the show never got to. While Terry is getting this history lesson, the battle of robo-Batman continues to unfold. Not only that, the new Catwoman enlisted the help of some robo-Catwomen as well. It must be a mark of status in the future. You're not really awesome until you have your own army of duplicates doing your dirty work. Some may find the whole robot angle pretty lame, but since this is the future it does fit somewhat. It's just that for all the supposed advancements made, the damn things are still an insult to the Terminators and every robot movie ever made. That doesn't mean they don't kick a little ass though. Batman does manage to get some fight out of his robots and give Hush a good beat down.

Where it all goes wrong is in the design. Hush may be flesh and blood, but he still has a working brain. He quickly picks out a flaw in robo-Batman's design. He guesses that the main power supply is under the trademarked Batman emblem and guess what? He's right. It's just like those lame putty soldiers in the old Power Ranger TV show. One hit to a certain point and it's done for. Not a very effective design to say the least. The only thing Bruce can possibly do to not be completely humiliated is self-destruct the damn thing. In comics, that's like standing up with a bullhorn and admitting to a large crowd that you're a pussy.

It's clear Bruce is not doing very well without Terry, but someone has to do the whole mystery game. In the process, there's a quick flashback with Dick Grayson and this is where it gets a little muddled from the show. He says that during Bruce's final days as Batman the Joker showed up and abducted Alfred. But how can that be? It was already revealed in a previous issue that the whole plot of Return of the Joker still applied. Anyone who saw that story on a late-night rerun on Cartoon Network knows that the Joker was killed by Tim Drake. So how could he show up again to abduct Alfred? Moreover, how can this be the point when Bruce retired? In the first episode of Batman Beyond, it showed Bruce still going at it as an old man in the new suit. Something is clearly very wrong here.

It's the first major hiccup in the continuity with this series. So far the book has been very good at staying true to what the old show established. This is quite a misstep because it's flying in the face of events that were already established in this very mini. If Tim Drake never made an appearance, then one could say it was a retcon. But that's not the case. Someone drilled a hole here and it's big enough for Ron Jeremy to fuck. There is some other details about Dick getting shot during this process, but for most readers that will fly right over their heads as they're too busy scratching it trying to rectify this first and blatant inconsistency.

There may very well be an explanation for this, but for now it's a hole that this series will have to work around. There is some reprieve when another familiar face from Batman Beyond shows up, his old friend Max. Her hair is dyed a different color in this comic, but she's still clearly the new Batman's Alfred except she has boobs and no accent. She's able to give Terry a good pep talk and prompt him to quit with the detective shit and go do something about Hush and the shit he's been pulling.

What he ends up doing is luring Hush out by disguising himself as one of Batman's current villains, Mad Stan. He was one of the more colorful villains in the show, not so much a master criminal and more an overall trouble-maker. He was no Joker, but he was easy to laugh at. His appearance is more than enough to get Hush in the mix for another fight and this time he's packing more deranged madness this time. He's also got a spear, which admittedly isn't as subtle as a boomerang but even in the future being stabbed still hasn't been rendered obsolete.

The fighting is a lot more intense this time around. Hush isn't looking to taunt or tease Terry like some overpriced street hooker. He's out for blood. He rants on about how this is part of some bigger plan to do what's right for Gotham. Somehow killing Batman, the guy who has always taken it upon himself to save Gotham, is supposed to work. I don't get it either and it sounds like someone is off his meds for making this case, but Hush believes his madness the same way Donald Trump believes his own superiority. This seems to be enough because he ends up delivering a fatal blow to Terry.

Then comes the big reveal. Hush has taken down Batman. He's stabbed him, wounded him, and humiliated him. Now feeling his balls descend a bit more, he rips off the bandages covering his face to reveal his identity. Only it's not the same Hush that was described a few issues ago. This Hush is actually Dick Grayson. Yeah, the same damn Dick Grayson from earlier in the books! Somehow that alibi of his wasn't as solid as he claimed and somehow he figured out to be two places at once, fighting Catwoman while meeting with Terry. It's shocking and confusing, sort of like sitting on tasers while high on cocaine. It's certainly unexpected, but it offers more confusion rather than mystery.

So we've got Dick Grayson showing up and later revealing himself as Hush. This comes on top of that flashback that flies directly in the face of the story revealed in the cartoon. For a series that had been so streamlined and solid, it's like someone drove over a pothole laced with grease from a MacDonalds deep fryer. It didn't completely crash and burn, but it's swerving recklessly throughout a busy residential neighborhood and taking out a few kids and small kittens in the process. Even though these reveals made for some strong moments, they weren't all that striking and didn't hit an emotional chord. That in many ways is the greatest weakness of the book. Because of the confusing twists, it's hard to get really attached to it.

That doesn't mean it's been completely destroyed. This issue was not up to par with the previous three and it's really hurt the overall flow of the story. However, it certainly isn't beyond redemption. There could certainly be a worthy explanation in the next issue as there so often are with other mystery books. Perhaps that flashback in this book was a ruse. Perhaps that Dick Grayson that Terry talked to was a ruse. Perhaps even the Hush claiming to be Dick Grayson is an impostor. There are plenty of possibilities and it depends on how it brings the story together. For now though, this issue fell short of it's predecessors. That's why I give Batman Beyond #4 a 3 out of 5. It's not terrible enough to pan just yet, but it has some work to do to be awesome again. Nuff said.