Saturday, January 28, 2012

X-men Legacy #261 - Reflections of Past Awesome

I've taken some heat for my assessment of X-men Legacy lately. Some complain I make too big a deal out of the Magneto/Rogue shit. Granted, it makes for great jokes about senility and Anna Nichole Smith, but I do admit it gets old. While I still feel it's worth belaboring, I haven't let it completely destroy my outlook on X-men Legacy. I still enjoy many aspects of this book, even though Mike Carey has left. The torch has already been passed to Christos Gage, who is best known for his work on Avengers Academy. He already showed us what he can do with X-men Legacy #260.1. Overall, it was a decent comic. But let's face it, he's trying to follow Mike Carey's legacy. That's like trying to fuck a beautiful woman after she's been ravaged by Brad Pitt for two straight hours. You've got your work cut out for you.

Christos Gage began his run by having the Legacy crew establish themselves at the Jean Grey Institute for Higher Learning. They're basically the senior staff that hasn't gotten tenure yet, assuming of course they start bribing the teachers union. So when something like a demon hoard arrives to attack the school, they're on the front lines. X-men Legacy #260.1 demonstrated that they can handle this role nicely and just as with Mike Carey, Rogue takes center stage with her ability to use a massive cocktail of powers and beat down anything that keeps students from their daily does of torture in an algebra class. Boy, what I wouldn't have given for a demon attack in high school. But I guess that's besides the point. In addition to being the unofficial patrols, they also have their share of high school drama. Rogue is still lamenting that Magneto is no longer slipping her the high hard one and Frenzy is still reeling from the influence of Cyclops's penis in Age of X. It leads her and Gambit to end Gage's first issue in a spit-swapping contest. So at least Gage has captured Mike Carey's spirit of having equal battles between sinister forces and the characters' own genitals.

X-men Legacy #261 marks Christos Gage's first issue that doesn't remind readers of how much math sucked back in school. It doesn't start off with a demon attack or any shit like that. It focuses on drama while showing the Legacy crew as they teach some of the students at the Jean Grey Institute, presumably for shitty pay and little recognition like most teachers. Rogue is still dwelling on Magneto's wrinkly scrotum banging against her ass while Frenzy and Gambit have an awkward moment. They're quick to label that kiss in the last issue a mistake. Gambit still seems hung up on Rogue. I assume his scrotum is still collapsed due to the knowledge that she preferred getting her clam filled by Magneto. Frenzy seems to acknowledge this, which is kind of fucked up because that kiss at the end of the last issue could have started something new. Here, it's just glossed over. It's almost as bad as the Cyclops/Emma relationship, minus the porno elements.

And then there's the Rogue/Magneto plot that hasn't been resolved (or effectively set up for that matter). I know I'll get a few comments whining about how I belabor this point, but it's worth belaboring when someone like Rogue that's so competent in so many other fields is stupid enough to spread her legs for a guy that has a history of wanting to extinguish the human race. But I'll try and taper my drunken rage for the moment. Gage actually takes some time here to explore that plot that seemed to be pulled out of one too many different asses. It's nothing elaborate. It's just Rogue chatting with Rachel Grey, the other red-hared green-eyed mutant that doesn't have the Phoenix Force anymore. The drama here is basically taken right out of a High Grant movie. Rogue never really cleared the air with Magneto, but doesn't want to call him to give the impression that she thinks she's wrong for coming to Westchester. Throw in Jennifer Love Hewitt and cheesy dialog and you've got a shitty romantic comedy.

Thankfully, drama only takes up a few pages of this issue. A much bigger issue emerges when Blindfold, a mutant with the power to spoil every movie and football game, shows up and lets them know they have a visitor and it's not Jehovahs Witnesses, but it's just as unwelcome. Early on in Mike Carey's run, he involved Exodus in a plot with Charles Xavier. Then after Messiah Complex, Exodus has been MIA. Presumably, he's just as disgusted with Rogue boning Magneto as well. But he shows up at the front door of the Jean Grey Institute looking all red and douchy. Rogue calls Wolverine and the rest of the Institute staff to meet at the front door to beat this asshole to a pulp before he threatens to level the school. Yet that's not his goal if you can believe that. He says he's there to save mutant-kind.

No really. That's why he says he's there. Not to kidnap someone or kill anyone. That's his stated mission. He says that the schism between mutants is dangerous. Like his name implies, he's going Old Testament on them minus the genocide and misogyny. He says that abandoning Utopia was a bad decision and one that will doom the mutant race. It's not an unreasonable assessment because they've already done the divide part in their enemies' divide and conquer strategy. Now he says they need to resolve their differences with Cyclops. But here's the catch. He's not asking them. He's telling them, which sounds like my old baseball coach only without the threat of throwing baseball bats at my head.

The X-men respond to this as you would expect. They don't like being told what to do even if the asshole doing it does have some valid point. So Rogue leads the assault with Cannonball, Wolverine, Rachel, Gambit, Frenzy, and even Iceman present. That sounds like a pretty tough team until you remember that Exodus is one of those overpowered villains that in a real world setting would human skin to wipe his ass. The battle here is pretty well-organized. The X-men put up a decent fight, but Exodus is just too damn resourceful. So how do they beat him? Well why not take a page right out of...the last issue. Okay, that's not very original, but that's what happens here.

In the first issue when the battle got tough, Rogue just called timeout to go grab some powers from the students at the Jean Grey Institute to tip the balance. She does the exact same thing here. And I mean almost beat for beat. It's one thing to do this in the same series, but doing it after it was already done in the last issue? At least give me some time to kill the necessary brain cells to forget! At least Gage makes it somewhat comedic this time. Rogue swipes some of Exodus's teleportation powers and makes her way to the lower levels of the institute where she meets up with Kid Gladiator, who was introduced as another overpowered douche-bag in Wolverine and the X-men. She asks to borrow his powers. He responds by saying he'll only do it if she joins his harem and presumably participates in an orgy. I admit, if I was in his position I would probably do the same. But Rogue isn't without her charm. She swipes his powers with a kiss before leaving. While this pisses off Kid Gladiator's guardian, he does look quite smitten. It's a cute way of showing that even alien teenagers get awkward boners.

Armed with Kid Gladiator's powers, Rogue returns to the battle and tips the balance. She arrives just as Exodus is reminding Frenzy that they used to be on the same team and she used to believe in their cause until she was corrupted by Cyclops's penis. He threatens to remove her memories of his overpowering dong, which could have made for a very powerful moment. But Rogue comes in just in time and beats the shit out of Exodus. It's a great spectacle, but at the same time it seems like a missed opportunity because it could have fleshed out the conflict with Frenzy. She's clearly in a vulnerable position as most women are after banging Cyclops. The fact that she didn't want her memories changed says something, but it isn't explored and that's just disappointing. So you're stuck watching Rogue beat up Exodus. I concede that's a decent consolation prize.

But despite this ass-kicking, Exodus refuses to back down. You almost have to admire the guy because he believes he's saving the mutant race and not just being a raging douche. The X-men belabor their case that they couldn't stay on Utopia. Exodus just can't wrap his head around why they would willingly divide their species. Then out of frustration, Rogue opens her mind to let him see for himself. What we get as a result is a quick flashback that shows the events of Second Coming and Schism all on one page. It's a nice little recap. It seems out of place since this is usually the kind of shit that the .1 issues are supposed to address, but it offers yet another reminder of what led to Schism. Again, I haven't killed enough brain cells to forget so for most readers this is wasted ink. For me, it just means I need stronger weed.

Nevertheless, it gets the job done. Exodus sees this and understands. And in a very non-douche way, he stops fighting. He actually says that Wolverine and his crew are completely justified in their actions. He even makes it a point to list Hope as a really fucked up part of the equation that for some ungodly reason is the key to the mutant race's salvation. He seems to see her as a threat so he must be an angry Jean Grey fan as well. He leaves the institute saying he's going to fix this, but that has some rather fucked up implications. It doesn't take long for Rogue and the rest of her crew to realize that they may have just sent Exodus to Utopia to fuck things up more than they already are. It's a rather ironic twist, but one that puts a nice twist on this conflict and could potentially lead to a very awkward confrontation with Team Cyclops.

It's amazing how it seems like so much shit happens in an issue, but it's just as long as every other book that's overpriced at $3.99. A lot happens in this book and most of it is pretty awesome. Christos Gage has had two issues so far to set a new tone for X-men Legacy and with this issue, I'm not afraid to say he's succeeding. He's not taking this series down a radically different path. Like so many of the other X-men Regenesis books, the fallout from Schism is still affecting many of the characters. The plot here is sound. Exodus, despite his history of being an asshole, actually arrives with some valid concerns for mutant kind. Even he understands that being divided makes them vulnerable. It leads to a fight with some very interesting undertones and one Gage handles nicely. The prospect of this battle extending over to Utopia adds even more potential that unified coherence that has made the X-books a new kind of awesome.

There's a lot to like about this issue, but there are still some elements that hold it back. I've pointed out how fucked up the Rogue/Magneto plot is and how it should be taken out back to a dark alley, shot in the head, and pissed on before being burned. So I won't repeat myself. But the fight in this issue followed the same formula as the last issue almost to the letter. Everyone starts getting their ass kicked, Rogue steps out for a moment to borrow some powers from students, and then she returns to beat the shit out of whatever threat they were facing. It's nice the first time around, but the sheer lack of variation between two issues just makes it seem cliched. If this is how every issue is going to pan out, then it's going to be akin to being the weatherman in Death Valley. It just gets too fucking predictable.

Even if there was some copying and pasting going on, this is still a quality comic. There's plenty of drama and some elaborate fighting that makes for quite a spectacle. The prospect of taking that spectacle to Utopia offers plenty of appeal for the story. I like that Gage isn't just continuing the themes that Mike Carey set up and mixing them nicely with the general post-Schism status quo. There are a few shortcomings, but it's still an above average comic with the potential to be much better depending on how the next issue pans out. I give X-men Legacy #261 a 3.5 out of 5. I want to give it something higher, but the missed opportunities along with the recycled plot make it difficult to give it too high a mark. But if Gage can work his magic with the next few issues, I'll make a conscious effort to stop mentioning Mike Carey so often in my X-men Legacy reviews. Keep in mind I made a conscious effort to quit drinking before, so try and taper your expectations. Nuff said!

Friday, January 27, 2012

X-men Supreme Issue 46: Paradise Mystery PREVIEW

The dog days of winter have set in and the X-men Supreme fanfiction series keeps moving along! I've been keeping warm by my computer screen, churning out more story to move this fanfiction forward. I understand that the past few issues of X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope have been a bit political. At a time when the American presidential race is heating up, it's only appropriate that the world of X-men Supreme deal with such issues. At the same time, I understand that there's only so far that political stories can go with a comic book audience. So I'll come out and say right now that politics will not dominate X-men Supreme in this volume or future volums. It will only play a secondary role. With that in mind, the new issue of X-men Supreme takes a break from politics and gets back to the kind of action that I'm sure most X-men fans would appreciate. I've prepared a brief preview here to offer a nice taste of what you can expect.

“Father? Do you have a moment?”

“For you, Lorna, always,” said the master of magnetism as he turned to face her.

Taking off his helmet, Magneto entered his opulent throne room where his daughter was waiting for him.

“Tell me, what is on your mind, my dear?” he asked.

“A number of things, actually,” she said, “I was surveying the new residential areas with Wanda today. The buildings look good, definitely a step up from the old apartment my mom and I used to live in. But some of the residents aren’t too keen on the rules we’re laying out. There’s still a lot of theft, petty feuds, and vandalism.”

“Were you and Wanda able to contain the situation?” he asked cryptically.

“Yes, but it still feels like mob mentality out there. A lot of these mutants are here from the uprising. They didn’t come to live peacefully. They came to fight. Now that the fighting is over, they can’t seem to move on.”

“That is to be expected in any nation founded through conflict. Preserving order rarely happens overnight, particularly when the people still feel threatened.”

“But they aren’t threatened!” Lorna argued, “I mean yeah, we have ten different armies watching us, but they’re leaving us alone! Why can’t they accept that?”

“Most of these mutants have been living with that threat for most of their lives. Part of the promise I made them was to free them from it. It is a promise I still intend to make good on.”

“But how? It seems the only way they’ll ever be satisfied is if we go back on the deal that allowed us to be our own country in the first place.”

“Then like me, they’ll have to learn to compromise,” said the master of magnetism, “They may not like it, but if they want to live on this sanctuary they will accept it. We’ve spent a great deal of time rebuilding this nation and making it our own. I will not allow it to succumb to chaos and decadence. That you can be sure of.”

Lorna smiled somewhat at his strong words. Her father had many flaws, but lack of resolve wasn’t one of them. She still sensed he didn’t like this situation, but he was doing the best he could with it. For that she was proud of him.

Her gesture made Magneto smile as well. Of all those who stood beside him during these difficult times, few had a more profound effect on him than his once estranged daughter. She proved time and again that he could temper his anger for humanity and focus more on his fellow mutants. It was something he was still getting used to, but he was finding new ways to further his goals.

“I trust your word, Father,” she said, “I just have so much hope for this place and so does Wanda. We can do so much good for mutants by giving them a sanctuary. If we can show the world that mutants can create a peaceful society, then maybe we can move beyond this whole conflict with humanity.”

“Maybe…” said Magneto distantly, “That reminds me, have you spoken to Pietro? What’s his status on that little side-project I gave him?”

“You mean the caves?” she said, “Yeah, I did talk to him about that. He said they found some of Hodge’s old excavations in a quarry near the coast. It was in pretty bad shape because of cave-ins, but Avalanche got them through.”

“Did they find anything unusual?”

“Not that I know of,” she shrugged, “Why? What are you expecting to find?”

Magneto fell silent. He turned away from his daughter and back towards the balcony. As much as he cared for her support during this endeavor, there were still some things she just couldn’t share with her. This was one of them.

“Watch over the Citadel, Lorna. I’m going to pay him and the Brotherhood a visit,” he said as he put his helmet back on.

In addition to this preview, I have yet another update to the X-men Supreme Official Panels section. My old friend, MarvelWriter03, has submitted another piece. This time it's a nice rendition of Angel in a unique X-men Supreme look. As always, I deeply appreciate such contributions to this fanfiction series. If anyone else wishes to submit their work to X-men Supreme, please let me know and I'll be happy to discuss it. Or if you just want to talk comics with me, feel free to contact me at any time. There is so much more to come with this fanfiction series and I look forward to sharing it. Excelsior!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Astonishing X-men #46 - Multiverse Madness (of Awesome)

In most other spheres of my life, I don't like surprises (when I'm sober). If a woman knocks on my door armed with a baseball bat in one hand and a paternity test result in the other, I'd be pretty pissed about that. In comics, however, I don't mind surprises. Especially when it's the kind of surprise that takes a story that sucked in too many ways and adds in new elements that turn that suck into the kind of awesome you can mix with your speed. In my experience as a drunken fanboy, I've found that if the first few issues of an arc sucks the gerbil from a gay man's ass then chances are the whole arc will suck just as much. On rare exceptions (and by rare I mean photos of Michelle Bachmann going down on Nancy Polosi rare), a comic does start off lame but improves to something truly awesome. Like a total eclipse, it doesn't happen often, but when it does it's so beautiful that you may go blind if you stare at it too long.

Greg Pak's little field trip into the world of Astonishing X-men started off on shaky grounds. First there was that whole deceptive cover bit with Storm and Cyclops that got fanfiction writers imagining all sorts of depraved acts. Then there was the inclusion of yet another alternate X-men reality with new versions of Emma, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Kitty with shitty knock-off labels like Emmeile or adamantine. Yet despite these circumstances, Pak managed to put together a pretty intriguing story. First, he actually ties Astonishing into the shit that's going on in the other X-books. I know that doesn't seem like much, but to this point Astonishing has been so disconnected that it's like the Amish member of the X-men family. It centered around Cyclops being messed up about Schism and being led onto a mission with Storm, who just ended up being an alternate version Storm. It sounds like it shouldn't work, but Pak has defied the basic law that if it starts out fucked up it ends fucked up.

Astonishing X-men #45 was a great recovery issue from the insanity of the first. It helped introduce these alternate versions of the X-men and offered hints as to what kind of world they were stuck in. It's not your traditional post-apocalyptic scenario that is the basis for every anime series. It's actually slightly more fucked up if you can believe that. This man, calling himself the Savior, controls the world with his mind in a way that earns him the kind of worship that Pat Robertson only wish he had. He seems like a nice guy, but then we find out he's taking mutants from different alternate realities and using them like Duracell batteries for some fucked up machine. Cyclops and a few others including an alternate Wolverine break free. But the comic ended before we could get more of an explanation.

Astonishing X-men #46 provides that explanation in the very first few pages. First off, it reveals that the savior is actually Charles Xavier with Fabio style hair. Like so many other X-men realities, he sought to unite humans and mutants in a battle against Magneto. He succeed by opening his mind and sharing his thoughts with the world. It turns out, people weren't completely disgusted with the feeling and embraced him. Hell, if that's all it takes to bring peace than the X-men comics could have been resolved in two issues. I'll just assume the people of this reality are more gullible than the people who give money to a crack head and expect it back. But saving the world wasn't enough. Magneto threw in one last fuck you and uses his powers to destroy the Earth's electromagnetic field, killing millions in a very Ultimatum-like way minus the horrendous blood porn. That's where those mutant-powered batteries came in. That's what allowed the Savior to fix the planet. Unfortunately, he ran out of mutants and started lifting them from other realities. I know there are an infinite number of realities according to comic book physics, but it still counts as a dick move.

That freaky scene at the end of the last issue turns out to be exactly what it looks like. The Savior didn't stop at just using his own mind to fuck with people. He actually went out of his way to take countless other Xaviers from other alternate universe, cut off their heads, and use them in his giant Cerebro of horrors. It's a pretty elaborate and disturbing contraption. It's like a serial killer that collects the hands of his victims. Except in the Savior's case, this collection is more useful. Using his powers, he starts psychically attacking Cyclops and the rest of the alternate world X-men he freed. With power like that, it's only a matter of time before you start shitting your brain out throuogh your eyes.

It would have made for a short fight. Then the kid Nightcrawler that looks like he was taken right out of an episode of X-men Evolution finds out that the Savior could get a part in that Hoarding show on National Geographic. Remember when he mentioned how he took mutants from multiple realities? Well it turns out he took a shit ton of Magnetos from other realities, leaving to a surplus of spare helmets. Now I don't know why the Savior wouldn't throw away a bunch of contraptions that allow people to block out his psychic attacks, but I guess he's like that kid who collects boogers in grade school. He just can't throw crap away. Plus, it's probably better to keep it under his watch than let it become a shitty fashion statement.

Armed with these helmets, Cyclops flexes his scrotum and leads this team of alternate world X-men in a battle against the Savior. And in a ill-fitting move, he teams up with Wolverine while he chooses to split up the others. I mean why would he do that? Why not just take the alternate Emma Frost and say "In my world, you're totally in love with me and you let me tit fuck you every five minutes." But that's just me.

Cyclops and the alternate Wolverine, or James as he's called here, fight their way towards the Savior. They maul through some of the Savior's henchmen along the way. But such action is standard. What stands out here is how Cyclops talks with this other Wolverine. Unlike other Astonishing X-men titles, the shit hat happens in other books does matter so the effects of Wolverine leaving really do bother him. This is where Greg Pak really shines because while this is not the Wolverine that Cyclops knows, his emotions surrounding Schism definitely shows. And unlike his Wolverine, this one is actually willing to listen. Alternate universe. Impossible shit is the only norm.

While Cyclops and Wolverine are making their way towards the Savior, Emmeline (alternate Emma Frost) works with kid Nightcrawler and a less perky version of Kitty Pryde to create a distraction. She starts by hitting the Savior with a psychic attack. All it does is give him a bloody nose and make him look like the Grateful Dead after diving into a pile of blow. He's able to retort and make her look like Ike Turner's last six girlfriends. It seems like a shitty move, but there is some strategy behind it. Cyclops may be in a shitty state personalty, but he's still a brilliant strategist. He's like the Dr. House of leadership.

Emmeline's attack gets the Savior's attention. With it, he sics Storm on them. That is, the same Storm that swapped spit with Cyclops earlier and seems to want to jump his bone at every turn. But even if this Storm can't keep her clam in it's shell, she still packs a punch. Kid Nightcrawler and Shadow (alternate Kitty Pryde) try to attack her. They catch her by surprise at first, but when you can shove lightning up someone's ass then it's really not a fair fight. It also doesn't help that Nightcrawler is still a kid and manages to teleport his way right into a crowd of armed men. So while Cyclops's strategy to divert the Savior's attention was sound, he might as well have teamed up with the three stooges.

Since his team did such a shitty job, Storm is able to fly back towards the Savior just in time to give them a 50,000 volt reminder that she can fry their balls whenever she gets bored. It ends the fight before Cyclops and Wolverine can get to the Savior. But she's not done yet. She's merciful enough to keep Cyclops's balls intact because she still probably wants to suck them. All dick jokes aside, she seems genuinely serious about wanting to win this Cyclops over. So she urges the Savior to go into his mind and show him the same thing he showed the rest of the world that brought about so much peace. He connects him to every mind on the planet.

It seems like a fucked up thing to do, but when you think about it this definitely has some philosophical underpinnings. Pretty much all of human conflict stems from the fact that most people can't think outside their own heads and for some it's often stuck up their ass. But by bypassing all the clutter and connecting to everyone's mind, we all in theory see just how similar and/or boring we truly are.

However, this understanding is pretty much lost on Cyclops. Even after sensing all the thoughts in this world, he makes clear that it's not enough to make him okay with using the multiverse to fuel a raging death machine that also massages the ego of a madman. This is Cyclops. He's too stubborn to see even a psychically induced taste of utter nirvana. I'm not sure if that makes him noble or just stupid. I can't help but wonder how shitty his LSD tolerance must be. Regardless, he puts Magneto's helmet back on and prepares to take on the Savior. It's sets the stage for a fight that leaves little room for talking out their differences and plenty of room for blowing shit up. That kind of thing is definitely worth waiting for in the next issue.

Ever since Joss Whedon left Astonishing X-men, the series has been more chaotic Courtney Love's mood swings when she's PMSing. It's been all too easy a title to ignore as the other X-books have improved in quality. Greg Pak does something special here. He makes his Astonishing arc actually have meaning to what's going on in the other X-books. It isn't just about Cyclops dealing with the events of Schism. In this he actually gets to interact with another Wolverine and take on another version of his mentor. He's shown the same things that brought peace to their world and still fought on. It isn't just another villain he's fighting. This Savior wants to save his world as well. That makes for a conflicting yet compelling struggle that Greg Pak makes into a brilliant story.

This issue definitely filled in the very ominous blanks left by the first two issues. In light of this issue, those two actually make much more sense now. It's still a little convoluted in the sense that it took two issues to make things salient. Certain aspects like using elements from a shitty story like Ultimatum made certain details a bit cliched. Even so, the action and the character interactions really fleshed this story out. It wasn't just an improvement over the previous issue. It was a complete retooling that painted a much clearer picture and used all the right elements to make it compelling.

While Greg Pak may not be staying on Astonishing X-men long term, he's definitely making his mark on this book. I admit I was pretty disappointed with his first issue, but he's done more than enough to redeem himself. He's shown in other Marvel books that he's resilient when it comes to tough stories. He pounds that point home with a sledge hammer here. This is without a doubt the best Astonishing X-men has been in years. It could still be better since not everything has come together just yet. With that in mind, I give Astonishing X-men #46 a 4 out of 5. Take comfort in this because that means this book is awesome in a way that isn't "walking through the raindrops of the continuity" as Marvel loves to put it. That shit wasn't working and unless you're okay with smelling like a cow's ass, you make the necessary change and they've done it with Greg Pak. Nuff said!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Uncanny X-Force #20 - With Liberty and Awesome for All

I have a mixed history with the law and justice in general. For the most part, I'm for it. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling in the pit of my colon whenever I see a murderer, a child molester, or the head of an investment bank get sentenced to consecutive life terms in prison with the assumption that he'll be someone's bitch. On the flip side, I erupt into uncontrolled rage when policemen with nothing better to do bust me or a buddy for having a bag of weed or stumbling down a street at two in the morning after getting shit faced drunk. I like to think that there's a healthy balance. Superhero comics have always utilized justice as a theme of sorts, righteous or otherwise. Nobody will cough up a lung when a villain gets busted and sent to jail. But when someone that's supposed to be a hero is on trail, that's when shit gets heavy.

Justice is kind of a moot point in a series like Uncanny X-Force. By definition, these guys are breaking the law, no more than two of the Ten Commandments, and probaby making baby Jesus cry at some point. They're lying to their friends, their enemies, and their allies about what they do. They go out in dark uniforms and take care of threats in a way that they can't be very heroic about, which usually involves bloodshed and poop jokes from Deadpool. Justice was hardly an issue during the Dark Angel Saga. When the world is about to go to hell, laying down the law just seems stupid. While this event may be over, the circumstances surrounding it have not been resolved. Since Rick Remender's brain is supercharged by ten nuclear reactors, he continues to explore this theme in the pages of Uncanny X-Force #20.

It's the first issue since the Dark Angel Saga ended and the first issue that's officially part of X-men Regenesis. Forget for a moment that Remender has to follow up a story as awesome as the Dark Angel Saga. Before that story even began, there were still issues. Things like Fantomex killing kid Apocalypse can't exactly be glossed over. There are other outside issues that haven't even come up yet. Issues like how Psylocke can be part of a secret kill squad while her brother, Brian Braddock aka Captain Britain, is a nationally known hero. As is often the case, you can't keep secrets from nosy siblings. They'll find ways to get dirt on you even if they have to hire the CIA. When this comic begins, Psylocke wakes up in her brother's hero pad. It turns out that when Psylocke's powers were expanded in the Dark Angel Saga, that re-established a link to her brother and exposed all her dirty X-Force secrets. Probably exposed what she likes to have done to her with a strap-on too so Brain is probably fucked up enough. In addition, he flat out admits that he abducted her in her sleep so they could address this whole being part of a kill squad ordeal. He argues that her place is with her family and Wolverine and his gang of secret thugs. It sounds almost as unpleasant as when my sister explained to me why I needed to buy her tampons at three in the morning.

But Captain Britain isn't just abducting his sister from some bad influences for her own good. No, that would make too much sense for an overbearing sibling. He brought her to his headquarters because he needs her help. Like a sibling that buys you dinner only so they can ask to borrow your car for the weekend, she lures her into his domain known as the Tower Omniverse. It's dangerously close to being a Green Lantern ripoff, but it doesn't involve tacky jewelry or cliched oaths. Regardless, Captain Britain and his corp of of justice-loving comrades have good reason for getting a high powered telepath. Their corp has been under attack by an army overpowered sociopaths from various realities. It's sort of like a vacation spot for every movie villain in history so while Brian may have good reason for wanting his sister back, it's still a dick move. He somewhat makes up for it by revealing some special tech that would give her back her old body. But that wouldn't mean she wouldn't be a hot Asian chick anymore. That should serve to make Captain Britain worse than Hitler in the eyes of every X-men fan.

While Betsy is having an impromptu family reunion, Wolverine and his X-Force buddies are welcoming their newest member with a Danger Room exercise. One of the other aftermaths of the Dark Angel Saga was that AOA Nightcrawler decided to stay. Not because his world is a shitty wasteland that a super powered tyrant anally raped into desolation, but because some of his AOA buddies decided to set up shop in 616 as well. So he figures it's only proper that he hunt them down and kill them. What better team to help him than X-Force?

However, it's not as bittersweet as you might think. During the course of the training, AOA Nightcrawler demonstrates in a number of gruesome ways that he is NOT the same god-loving Nightcrawler that Wolverine and every other 616 fan knows and loves. This guy is cruel, ruthless, cold, and makes lame James Bond puns. He says outright that he's not there to replace their dead Nightcrawler. He's in 616 to get revenge. It definitely rubs some like Wolverine the wrong way, who on some levels I think is trying to replace Nightcrawler. He even gets on Deadpool's nerves. You know you're a special kind of asshole when you annoy someone like Deadpool.

Despite AOA Nightcrawler's apt for taking a shit on the memory of their fallen friend, he's there to stay. He makes that clear to X-Force and they're not in a position to say no. They need someone to pick up the slack left by Angel being mind-fucked in the Dark Angel Saga. They may end up being down even more because after the Danger Room session, Fantomex's old friend the Ultimaton shows up to inform them that not only has Psylocke been abducted. Fantomex has been abducted as well.

Now why would Captain Britain and his corps go through the trouble of abducting a wannabe French douche-bag in addition to his smoking hot telepathic sister? Well while Psylocke is musing over her brother's offer to get her old body back and join a team that doesn't involve being on a secret kill squad, he also reveals that they took Fantomex to put him on trial. What's his crime? I mean aside from being a douche? He shot a kid in the head in the first arc of Uncanny X-Force. There are a lot of crimes that comics are willing to overlook. Even making a deal with the devil to absolve your marriage seems acceptable. But killing a kid? That just can't go unpunished. So with questionable jurisdiction, Psylocke finds out that her brother's people have put Fantomex in shackles and brought him up to this overblown courtroom that looks like something Judge Judy masturbates to.

If you're a little confused, you're in good company. And it isn't just because we may know the same pot dealer. Rick Remender is usually very good about not pulling shit out of his ass that doesn't stink. This whole bit with Captain Britain and his corps suddenly feeling the need to try Fantomex seems a bit contrived. And even if it's just something he learned about through picking at his sister's thoughts, why use it when he's trying to convince her to join him? It just seems too random on some levels.

On others, however, Rick Remender still shows his usual attention to detail. The trial isn't exactly the OJ Simpson trial. It's actually pretty detailed, going over what happened with the first arc of Uncanny X-Force and digging a little deeper into why Fantomex did what he did. There's actually a bit of commentary here if you're not too high to notice. Fantomex argued that he killed kid Apocalypse because the Akaba Clan had corrupted him. If he hadn't killed him, he would have become the tyrant that enjoys jerking off to images of mass genocide. But this was still a kid. He hadn't done any of that yet. His accusers argue that he was in no position to sentence this boy for shit that he could have done. It's an old legal issue. At what point does prevention clash with logistics? Both sides have a point, but only one side has the authority to determine whose guilty and since Fantomex acts like a dick when discussing his decision, it comes as no surprise when they hand down a guilty verdict. Maybe he should have hired Johnny Cochran.

While justice isn't being served, the rest of X-Force head off to find their missing friends. They use Gateway, a teleporting mutant from Age of Apocalypse, to lock down on Psylocke and Fantomex's signature with help from Ultimaton. It seems simple enough, but they end up running head first and balls out into that swarm of deranged sociopaths that Captain Britain showed Psylocke earlier. They take one step in and Deadpool gets his head chopped off...again. Another bloody X-Force battle ensues. All the while, Fantomex is about to get the kind of justice that's probably only reserved for gay Jewish men in Saudi Arabia. At some point Psylocke has to decide whether her brother's brand of bullshit is worth tolerating. It's something she'll have to decide in the next issue, but as someone who had to deal with siblings who thought they were superheroes by right I can say with confidence that Psylocke is screwed no matter what she chooses.

I always try to have sympathy for writers that have to follow up amazing arcs. Rick Remender is no exception. He put together one of the best X-men arcs in a decade with the Dark Angel Saga. No one should expect him to follow a story like that with something that's on the same level. If you do, then you're an asshole. This issue is not like the issues that made up the Dark Angel Saga. It's not even like the issues that led up to it. Uncanny X-men #20 is built as a shift in the conflict, but it maintains the strong coherence that Remender has set up. Using Fantomex's past douche-baggery and framing it as something that couldn't go unaddressed makes sense. The only problem is that it seems to be ill-timed.

At times, it felt like this issue should have happened before the Dark Angel Saga. That was before X-Force found out that Fantomex was cloning a new Apocalypse and trying to make him somewhat less of a genocidal tyrant. So it doesn't make as much sense to put him on trail now unless they're going to also try him for being a general tool all throughout the Dark Angel Saga. Unfortunately, there's no law against just being a douche-bag in comics.

Never-the-less, this setup does open the door for other compelling plots that also connect to the recent events surrounding the Dark Angel Saga. Wolverine and his X-Force crew learn first hand that AOA Nightcrawler is nothing like the Nightcrawler they know. He makes it clear that he's not in this world to dick around. He wants revenge. He doesn't care for God's love or forgiveness. That shit was the first thing that died in the Age of Apocalypse. In addition, the family dynamics between Psylocke and Captain Britain work well. What brother wouldn't be disturbed if he found out his sister had joined a kill squad and is falling in with the wrong people? Although in my experience, trying to get your sister to join your cause by kidnapping her is just begging for sustained testicular trauma.

Uncanny X-Force #20 is not a bad comic by any stretch. It still has Rick Remender's quality writing and organization. However, in the context of the Dark Angel Saga, it feels like a downgrade. If this issue was released before the events of the Dark Angel Saga, I probably would be inclined to give it a perfect score. But since no X-men comic exists in a vacuum anymore (except bullshit gimmicks like Xenogenesis), it's hard to ignore the circumstances. With this in mind, I give Uncanny X-Force #20 a 4 out of 5. It's still the above average, top grade X-book that X-men fans have come to know, love, and be painfully addicted to. It won't blow your mind like the Dark Angel Saga did, but it should leave you with a mild concussion at the very least. Nuff said!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Generation Hope #15 - Tense Awesome

I don't claim to be completely level-headed in my reviews. I don't claim to be sober either. I understand that I have a number of pet peeves in comics that rub me in ways that you don't want an Asian transvestite masseuse to do while blindfolded. But despite these personal grudges, I try to be objective with every book I review. A little brutal honesty helps as well. When a book has minor flaws, I'm willing to take an extra shot of bourbon and overlook it. But when that flaw is major, an entire mountain of cocaine isn't enough to make me ignore it. Consider this a disclaimer of sorts because I've ranted on certain flaws in the X-books before. Some of you may be sick to death of them. To those people I would say you need to drink more. For everyone else, I ask that you keep this in mind as I review Generation Hope #15.

Generation Hope is a series that has had some wild variations. From Kieron Gillen to James Asmus, this book has been cock-bustingly awesome at times and ass-clenchingly horrible at others. In between there have been WTF moments on top of "Holy shit, this is so amazing that I need to inject this book into my veins!" This series is built around some pretty novel concepts that have helped give this book a truly unique feel. The events of Schism helped shape that feel into something even more compelling. James Asmus, taking over for Kieron Gillen, did a great job with his first arc. He had Jean-I mean Hope (you really expect me to still tell them apart?) and her realigned team of Lights venture to Pakistan where they rescued an amnesic Sebastian Shaw. They don't know the man's history or that Emma Frost basically lied to everyone about what he did to him in the Quarentine arc. So when they brought him back to Utopia, the reaction from Cyclops was as overblown as expected. It made Generation Hope #15 all the more intriguing so of course I had a number of pre-rolled joints made up for this issue.

It begins right where the previous book ended, making for the kind of perfect continuity that makes comic fans all warm and fuzzy inside. First, there's a backstory page for readers who don't know the kind of douche-bag that Sebastian Shaw is. Then when the next scene involves Cyclops blasting him and getting Psylocke and Danger to contain him, you don't feel too bad about it. This is, after all, the asshole that made Cyclops's wife go Dark Phoenix and trigger decades of frustration for Jean Grey fans. In that sense Shaw is lucky that Cyclops doesn't order that Shaw's testicles are ripped out through his eye sockets.

Jean Gr-I mean Hope (shit, this is hard) and her Lights are understandably confused and so is Shaw. If you'll recall, Shaw has no memory and the Lights are still new to the game. They don't know what a douche-bag Shaw has been. So Je-I mean Hope (almost had it!) storms off with Cyclops and Emma for a badly needed explanation, leaving the Lights to scratch their heads in frustration at what they just experienced. It can't be too uplifting. They go out of their way to save someone they thought was in trouble and they return only to find out they brought back someone that the X-men hoped was lying dead in a ditch. It leads to some pretty tense moments. Velocidad reminds his teammates that every time he uses his powers, he ages a bit. And when he uses them just to save some guy the X-men hate, that's kind of a big waste. It shows that the Lights may or may not be on board with the X-men's plan. The only one who seems content with this situation is Kenji and Martha Johannsen, who he gave a new body in the last issue. They're already coddling with the kind of creepy chemistry that makes for great anime porn. It may sound disturbing, but it has the kind of charm that will make you smile and throw up at the same time.

We go from one tense moment to one that should be a million times worse. Sebastian Shaw shouldn't be alive. He shouldn't even be on Utopia. It was Emma Frost who mind-wiped him and dumped him in the middle of nowhere. It was also Emma Frost who flat out lied to Cyclops in the Quarantine arc about what she was doing with this. This in and of itself wouldn't be too egregious. She's been known to lie before, but this came after the whole Confession bullshit during Utopia where they agreed to have no more secrets. Well here's a big fucking secret that is a serious threat to both Hope and their partnership with Namor, who is working under the assumption that Emma killed Shaw for him. But what does Cyclops do? He just says "All right." No really, that's it. That's all he fucking says when his big-breasted girlfriend tells him that she lied to him and went behind his back.

Here's where those pet peeves I mentioned earlier come in. I've always cried bullshit when Cyclops and Emma's relationship basically gets a free pass when this shit would have been overblown for any other couple. Emma Frost flat out lied to Cyclops after promising she wouldn't. This usually causes strain in a relationship, both fictional and in real life. But it doesn't amount to jack shit here. They just brush it off and go back to being a walking porno. And I say that's fucking bullshit. If this happened with Cyclops and Jean Grey, every writer at Marvel would use it as a way to fuck up their relationship. But Cyclops and Emma? A couple that has the depth of an episode of Two and a Half Men? Fuck no! There's having a double standard and then there's just being an arrogant dick about it. Guess which one Asmus and Marvel uses here? I'll give you a hint. Paris Hilton loves to suck it when a night-vision camera is rolling.

The potential for drama in Cyclops and Emma's relationship is completely forgotten so they can argue with Hope (happy now?). As far as she's concerned, they just rescued someone who had their mind wiped. Whoever he was before isn't who he is now. It's not an unreasonable assumption, if of course you're an arrogant teenage girl that doesn't know why she shouldn't trust creepy men that claim to have no memory. Cyclops tries to calmly explain to Hope that Shaw is an asshole, but despite that or perhaps because of it Hope says she trusts the man. She even calls Cyclops out for having a shitty standard because this guy boned his girlfriend. It's a real dick move and Emma Frosts responds by smacking her. It's by far the best thing Emma Frost did since getting a boob job. Given how much of a bitch Hope has become lately, she more than deserved it.

While the bullshit surrounding Cyclops, Emma, and Hope is unfolding, another almost equally shitty situation is arising with the Lights. They're still standing around confused at why everyone is so pissed that they brought Sebastian freakin' Shaw to their shores. Then out of nowhere and for no reason they're confronted by some Utopia residents that used to be part of the Mutant Liberation Front. They really don't think highly of the Lights and why should they? They're a bunch of teenagers who just got their powers and because of their connection to Hope Summers, they get all of Cyclops's attention. It's not totally unreasonable, but the fact they're doing this now is really fucked up timing. Too fucked up for it not to be contrived. Laurie doesn't help by being a bitch herself so in addition to contrived timing we get a contrive fight.

It's every bit as random as it sounds. A fight breaks out between the Lights and the MLF for no other reason than to throw some action into this book. To Asmus's credit, the fight is well-organized. It has some pretty nice moments like Kenji using that Akira knock-off form of his along with Martha to show the MLF what a Japanese school girl feels like in tentacle porn. It's not just punching, kicking, and shooting. It is what it is, a mindless spectacle that helps distract from the bullshit happening in another scene. Unfortunately, it isn't distracting enough.

When Emma senses this, she interrupts their little conversation that involves heavy bitch-slapping to inform Hope that her ability to manage others has more room for improvement than downtown Detroit. So how can she really hope to manage an asshole like Sebastian fucking Shaw? Well being the arrogant bitch that she is, Hope reminds Cyclops and her Lights that she has a very strong hold on them. This hold has been hinted at before, but Hope has never flexed it like this. Not only is it a dick move, it has a very Dark Phoenix feel to it. She essentially uses this hold to remind the Lights that she's the pimp and they're her hoes and if they fall out of line, she is well within her right to fuck with them.

This is one moment that is actually really compelling in this comic. To this point, the mysterious influence Hope has over her Lights really hasn't been explored. Moreover, it hasn't taken a dark turn like this yet. When it happens here, you can't help but wonder why this didn't happen sooner. Then again, the timing may be perfect. Hope is becoming more of a brat just in time for Avengers vs. X-men as it looms over the horizon. If she's this much an asshole by the time the Phoenix arrives, then the X-men and Avengers have that much more to fight about.

Hope's little demonstration ends up making her point. Her Lights tuck their tails between their legs and run off to ponder the collapse of their collective scrotum. In addition, Cyclops caves to her wishes. Most likely because he doesn't want to upset the "City in Arizona" as he calls it. He agrees to let Hope work with Sebastian Shaw. He makes sure she reads up on his history of being a dick beforehand, but given the arrogance Hope showed earlier I doubt that'll change her mind. In addition, she has other concerns within her own team. Apparently, they don't like this influence she has over them. Kenji, being the one who almost destroyed a whole fucking city in the first arc of this series, is especially pissed and makes it clear that he's more than a little inclined to fuck up in ways that will make Emma give him all her panties.

This issue had a lot of promise. After the end of the last issue, Generation Hope #15 had a chance to really impact the dynamics of other X-books like Uncanny X-men. Sadly, that promise was never fully realized. It's like a porn star that couldn't get the boob job she wanted. It's tragic and frustrating. It's not enough that this issue once again showed that Marvel is all too willing to gloss over glaring inconsistencies in the Cyclops/Emma relationship. But meaningless fights with characters that haven't so much as taken a minor shit in other comics just make too much of this issue feel like an excuse of sorts. Hope Summers and Emma Frost get a pass while Shaw suddenly becomes a major player for reasons that even a damaged teenage girl should understand are fucked up. This is the first X-men Regenesis book that has left me very disappointed and there's no reason it had to be this way.

I won't go so far as to say it's all terrible. James Asmus did utilize other elements in this issue that helped make up for some of the flaws (to a point). The new dynamic with Kenji and Martha was disturbingly charming. And seeing Emma Frost slap Hope Summers like the bratty bitch she's become was more than enough reason to justify purchasing this comic. Moreover, Hope's hold on her Lights as she demonstrated in a very Phoenix-ish sort of way added more hints as to what may be coming with Avengers vs. X-men. So this comic did contribute to the larger themes of the X-books that are developing in other titles. It's just unfortunate that it didn't do more with what it had to work with. It's like having a boner and no lube.

This issue wasn't the worst installment of Generation Hope to date. It certainly wasn't the best either. It has some elements that make it annoyingly asinine. It has others that make it undeniably appealing. The balance between the two is hard to really define. I can't really say that one makes up for the other. It's like one part is a shot of meth while the other is a shot of heroin. They each have the opposite effects, but it's balanced out in a way that leaves you confused and your brain pretty fucked up. So in light of this split I'm giving Generation Hope #15 a 2.5 out of 5. It could have been so awesome. Instead, the chocolate is mixed in with the shit to a point where it's hard to make sense of either. Nuff said!

Friday, January 20, 2012

X-men Supreme Issue 45: Hearts and Minds is LIVE!

It's time to shake things up in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series and today a new issue will turn the corner on this unique Marvel universe. This website is nearing 17,000 hits and I'm very excited about where this fanfiction series is heading! Part of what has made the X-men compelling since their inception has been their involvement in social issues. It's not enough for them to just be superheroes. There are others like the Avengers and Spider-Man to carry out that role. The X-men have always stood for far more fundemental issues of being different as outcasts of society. My X-men Supreme special Issue 0: Revelation X showed when the X-men accepted this role in X-men Supreme. The first issue of X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope showed just how hostile the world has become to mutants. It's fueling not just tension on Genosha with Magneto. It's also fueling a presidential campaign for Senator Robert Kelly. That campaign takes center stage in this new issue of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Hope you enjoy it!

Issue 45: Hearts and Minds

The larger conflicts throughout the world of X-men Supreme will continue to expand. X-men has always involved a wide array of conflicts. They can be the more social aspect of mutants or far more elaborate threats that go beyond mutants. Rest assure, there will be many such threats as this series continues to unfold. For now, it's important that readers provide feedback for this and every other issue of X-men Supreme. Please post it in the comments section for each issue or contact me with your comments. Any feedback is welcome and I'm always happy to discuss the world of X-men. Until next time, take care and best wishes!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Uncanny X-men #5 - Synergetic Awesome

Anyone who has ever had a job in a soul crushing office with a supervisor/asshole/tyrant that's underworked and overpaid has probably heard them give these bullshit speeches about synergy. Usually, it's just code for making people do more shit without getting paid as much and those that can't do said shit get fired. But enough about Goldman Sachs. This blog reviews comics. And in the world of comics, the concept of synergy actually has some merit. The idea that certain comics take what other related comics do and integrate them into the larger comic world makes for the kind of coherence that makes comics worth following. Sometimes writers and editors try to damn hard to make everything connected. It get so confusing at times that it's akin to watching Lost while on a bad LSD trip. Other times they don't even try. Shit just happens and it's never mentioned again. Both these extremes have a way of butt-fucking awesome comics before they can be awesome. There has to be a happy balance for this shit to work and it helps if the writer is actually competent.

Enter Kieron Gillen's Uncanny X-men. Gillen has already made it painfully apparent that he's a competent writer. He's shown the ability to both take over Uncanny X-men, end it after 544 issues, relaunch it, and make it pretty damn awesome in the process. That's like performing brain surgery, winning every gold metal in the Olympics, and banging Jessica Alba at once. But in terms of synergy, he tends to beat his own drum and lead his own parade. His first four issues established Cyclops's overpowered Extinction Team, setting them up as X-men that both save the world and make clear that mutants are not to be fucked with. But he hasn't really synergized the awesome in the new Uncanny with the other X-books yet. It's still early, but that doesn't mean he can't take a stab at it. It also helps when the events he chooses to synergize are just as awesome.

Enter Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force. This book is the other Uncanny book that's been regularly assaulting the cerebellum of it's readers with regular awesome. It takes Wolverine's secret kill squad and has them duke it out against forces that just need killing. In the biggest story to date in that series, the Dark Angel Saga created some pretty big ass bangs. One of which was the entire fucking world that Arcangel created using the life seed, destroying an entire town in the process. This new world didn't just disappear David Copperfield style after the Dark Angel Saga. Shit like that is going to get noticed and when it's a whole fucking world, you need someone like the Extinction team to deal with it.

This is where Uncanny X-men #5 picks up. We get a brief recap of what happened with the Dark Angel Saga. If you haven't read this arc and you're a comic fan, take a moment to dip your head in a vat of acid before reading on. If not, this should give a good reminder. The facts are pretty basic. A town blew up. A giant 10-mile dome now surrounds the area. And some curious locals decided to pick up their shotguns and investigate. As one would expect of any redneck adventure, some disappear and need rescuing. That and a blow to the head with a piece of heavy mining equipment for being so fucking stupid.

A little authors note (which there really aren't enough of in comics these days), points out that this takes place after Uncanny X-men #14. As such, it's only appropriate that Psylocke be the one to bring it to their attention. And by bring it to their attention I mean she flat out lies about this thing having turned up too late for her to bring it to anyone's attention. It wasn't too late. She was there when this shit went down, but Uncanny X-Force is still a secret at this point. And since Emma Frost lost an arm in the last arc and is learning how to give left-handed happy endings, she's not there to call bullshit. So when Cyclops decides to send the Extinction team to investigate, he asks Psylocke to take her place. It's fitting not just because Psylocke is the one with the secret. It's fitting because she knows she's lying and has to go along with it to protect that lie. So either way, she's screwed and she still has an amnesic boyfriend.

Before the team leaves, Cyclops also sends a message to Captain America. When there's a nuclear sized explosion in bumfuck Montana of all places, the Avengers take notice. But Cyclops gets in touch with Cap to let him know that his Extinction team is taking care of this. Cap agrees, albeit reluctantly. It's another one of those little things that Gillen has done so well lately, covering angles that would be easier to just flat out ignore. In addition, it drops some hints of tension between the X-men and the Avengers. A prelude to Avengers vs. X-men? It damn well ought to be!

The Extinction team arrives and it's as fucked as a five-dollar whore at a Motley Crue concert. The creatures inside Tabula Rasa as Psylocke dubbed it don't take kindly to the curious humans wielding shotguns. Some of those creatures have wings and look like something that crawled out of Betty White's vagina. These are the creatures that evolved during the Dark Angel Saga when Arcangel decided to do evolution his way and kick start a new ecosystem. I guess these creatures answers the age old bar question of what happens when a mosquito fucks a seagull. Or maybe I just go to better bars.

With help from Danger, the team analyzes this hoard of creatures and makes a rather mundane yet helpful discovery. These creatures navigate by the stars and since time inside the dome is more skewed than sitting through midnight mass on Christmas Eve with your constipated grandfather, they're pretty fucked up. What's the solution to this shit? Block out the stars. That gives Storm yet another opportunity to demonstrate why she's the most awesomely elegant X-woman ever. As if she needed to reinforce her point, but more importantly it clears shit up so that the team can explore Tabula Rasa and find the dumb fucks who thought it would be fun to get lost inside.

Like Scooby Doo in a haunted house, the team splits up. They're setting themselves up to be extras in a slasher movie, but this is the extinction team. A killer in a hockey mask would be a vacation for them. They each branch off to teams. Magik sticks with her brother, who is essentially her pet since he took on the Juggernaut mantle. Hope goes with Namor, who she actually flirted with earlier in a way that would make a great episode of To Catch a Predator. Danger plays the role of air support while Magneto volunteers to go with Psylocke. With Rogue gone, that old plumbing of his needs a new hole to fill and since Betsy lost her boyfriend recently why not? I honestly can't fault the old man for picking the hot Asian chick that likes wearing thongs. It leaves Cyclops and Storm to cover the rest. They have a whole ecosystem to explore and Rick Remender didn't have a lot of time to explore it during the Dark Angel Saga so who knows what they'll find?

Not all of it is full of monsters, if you can believe that. I know nature is a scary place for the fanboys who don't know the world outside their parents basement, but it would be lazy writing to make Tabula Rasa this Pandora-like death trap. And Kieron Gillen shows once again that he's more motivated than the average stoner. He takes a moment to show Illyana and Colossus having a moment in a more scenic setting. To this point Illyana has been a bit of a bitch for putting her brother in a position to be the new Juggernaut with her playing Dog Whisperer to his destructive tendencies (minus the poop). But here she actually does remind her brother that if he doesn't want to end up being as big an asshole as Cain Marko, he needs to remember that he's still human and he needs to feel. So her way of doing this is putting her in a beautiful setting that triggers the stoner that first saw aluminum foil in all of us. It's so precious without being incestuous.

But that's the only rosy side to Tabula Rasa we'll see. The others run head first into Tabula Rasa's less picturesque side. It starts off innocent enough for Cyclops and Storm. They're just strolling along, admiring the fauna. Storm is even nice enough to remind Cyclops that Beast probably would have loved this place. By nice I mean utterly cruel because she knows Beast hates Cyclops's guts at the moment. However, it's worth reminding because him alienating Beast is a big part of what led to Schism. Storm is probably the only one who could get away with doing this and look so elegantly sexy in the process. But it has to be restated, especially if Cyclops is going to have to call on old friends in Avengers vs. X-men.

But if getting belittled by Storm wasn't bad enough, Cyclops stumbles into what at first looks like quick sand. He falls in, disappears, and is shat out three miles away from where he was. I wonder if this is some sort of metaphor for what he's become since he turned the X-men into this army of not to be fucked with. Or maybe it's a hint of what's to come with Avengers vs. X-men. Since I haven't smoked enough pot to make predictions, I'll leave it up to the reader to decide.

Not all of Tabula Rasa's secrets are deadly animals or mounts that poop out mutants though. Sure, Hope and Namor end up taking on a monstrous eel, but Magneto and Psylocke stumble onto something more fucked up if you can believe that. Before they find out, Magneto takes a few too many panels to remind Psylocke that he knows about Uncanny X-Force. There was actually an entire issue of Uncanny X-Force that showed Magneto taking advantage of this knowledge. He probably kills his chances at ever getting into Psylocke's panties by bringing up Angel and reminding her that she paid a high price to save him (again, for the love of Odin go read Dark Angel Saga). It's a conversation that drags a bit, but it has a purpose. It leads to Magneto pointing out that X-Force's activities may have left a few clues behind for Cyclops and the others to find. They end up walking right into one of those clues.

As it turns out 130 million years of evolution does produce some intelligent life of sorts. And that intelligent life took notice of the shit that happened in the Dark Angel Saga and documented it in their art. When these creatures see Magneto and Psylocke, they don't attack like so many of the other creatures in this world. They bow and worship them. It's definitely a perk, but it comes with a bit of a catch. The artwork they depicted of Arcangel and Fantomex is new. 130 million years is a long fucking time. Surely some crazy shit happened before then.

Psylocke begans scanning the minds of these creatures and sure enough, she makes a discovery that they missed during the course of the Dark Angel Saga. Before they started worshiping Arcangel and his Apocalyptic douche-baggery, there was another god that demanded they massage his divine ego. Except like all those other pansy ass gods of the ancients, this one had a metal suit and a big ass gun. It was basically War Machine if War Machine wasn't such a pussy. This being apparently didn't take kindly to getting usurped by the likes of Arcangel. So when Magneto and Psylocke show up, it's ready to start collecting prayers. And by prayers, I mean asses. Hopefully, Psylocke's ass gets priority because most gods seem obsessed with woman's asses on some level. I figure it's only a matter of time before this wannabe god demands that Psylocke either be his bride or be subordinate to man. I think the feminist crowd knows how she'll handle that kind of unholy bullshit.

Gods, god machines, dark secrets, and synergy. It sounds like the kind of thing Michael Bay dreams about when he's taken one too many shrooms, but that's what Uncanny X-men #5 delivers. It takes the ashes from the Dark Angel Saga and uses them to reignite a new story that's awesome enough to cook bacon with. Kieron Gillen and pretty much every other writer at Marvel didn't need to deal with the remnants of the Dark Angel Saga. They probably could have just ignored it and fans wouldn't have given half an ounce of squirrel shit. But they didn't. Gillen actually made an effort to connect elements from one story and build something else from it. And so far he's done a damn good job.

There's a lot of setup and backstory squeezed in. A number of scenes in this issue act only as extended reminders of shit that happened in the Dark Angel Saga or in other parts of Uncanny X-Force. The breakdown at the beginning of the issue was probably enough, but it kept getting revisited and that made the comic drag at times. Yet it didn't get in the way of the action and it established some new twists on what Remender began in his arc. It opens the door for some potentially volatile revelations or even more secrets if and when X-Force comes to light. Whatever the case, Kieron Gillen has established another large-scale threat that only the Extinction Team is equipped to handle. He could have done without Hope flirting with Namor, but he did more than his part to honor the high-caliber awesome that Rick Remender established.

Kieron Gillen has definitely done plenty to establish this series as his own. He's given it his own unique touch and it's by far the best thing to happen to Uncanny X-men since Emma Frost's cleavage. This new arc deals with the kind of fragile conflicts that go beyond simply finding the bad guy and beating the shit out of him. There's potential for a much more complex kind of awesome. It's the kind of story that Gillen has done so well to this point and if you've come to love his work on any level, you shouldn't have much to bitch about with this issue. I give Uncanny X-men #5 a 4.5 out of 5. So the next time your boss starts droning on about this synergy bullshit, just throw Uncanny X-men #5 in his face and say "This is how it's done, asshole!" It may get you fired, but you'll prove your point. Nuff said!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CBR X-POSITION: Kieron Gillen - My Questions and Uncanny Hints

I know it's been a while since I've mentioned CBR's weekly X-POSITION column. I imagine the fine folks at Comic Book Resources are having just as tough a time working off the holiday eggnog as I am. It was only yesterday that I could shit without evoking several deities for strength. But 2011 is over. 2012 is in full swing and while we're not obsessing over the Maya Doomsday Prophecy, we'll have plenty of awesome comics to read. The big story that's going to have everybody's dick hard enough to club baby seals with is definitely Avengers vs. X-men. Marvel has already been releasing teaser after teaser for this thing. I get it. It's going to be big, insane, and involve the Phoenix Force. I don't need to be reminded that I'm going to buy it.

It also helps that the current X-books have been pretty damn awesome without having to beat the shit out of the Avengers. Uncanny X-men is one of those gems. Ever since Kieron Gillen took over, the series has reached new heights of awesome that would leave weaker fanboys lightheaded and with a nasty case of vertigo. His first arc introduced Sinister and the Celestials to Cyclops's new Extinction Team, while blowing Emma Frost's arm off in the process. He followed that up with a one-shot issue about the Phalanx that was awesome in a way that didn't need a big ass event to leave an impact. The man is definitely firing on all cylinders so CBR has every reason to give him an X-POSITION.

CBR: X-POSITION - Kieron Gillen

As usual, I make sure I'm sober enough to ask a few questions. Between Avengers vs. X-men and the recent events in Uncanny, I have more than my share. And being the generous folk they are, CBR and Kieron Gillen were nice enough to answer a few.

MarvelMaster616 would probably like the previous answer, but he'd also like to hear about motivations...

1) First off, great job on "Uncanny X-Men" #4. It was a deep, heartfelt issue that also connected with Sinister's plans. Can you talk a bit about what he's doing and why he may be doing it?

Thank you. Regarding what Sinister is up to -- the main theme of him previously has been the Pokemon-catching-them-all-esque-ness of gene hunting. He basically is someone who viewed the world as lab material. By showing him get his hive mind from the Phalanx I make it clear that he viewed everything -- not just mutants -- like this. It's just how he rolls. He sees the world as a Petri dish, a butcher's window or a dissection table. He's perhaps the most entitled man in the Marvel Universe.

What's he doing now? Well, the clues are there to speculate what he's doing now. He's talked about upping his game to match the X-Men's new Extinction team. It's clear that he has a specific interest in Hope -- and having him be the person to finally drop the "P" word at her is probably problematic. And... oh, that's all you're getting. Except that you'll get more in Uncanny's "AvX" issues.

As I said earlier, Sinister's a schemer. Part of my first arc was both tying off his previous schemes and giving an answer... and then starting another one. It wouldn't be a Sinister plot if you weren't wondering "What is he up to?" for half of it.

2) It's been argued on message boards that Cyclops has become a lot like Magneto. His Extinction team evokes both fear and respect for mutants. How close would you say Cyclops is to being like Magneto? At what point would you say the similarities become too egregious?

I think his current position is that he's willing to pretend to be more like Magneto to get what he wants -- which is no one to fight and kill each other. It's a specific tactic for a specific situation for a specific timeframe. From Cyclops' position, it's a case of keeping mutants alive until Hope does whatever Messiah-y things she's born to do -- if embracing the fact they are feared is a short-term compromise he thinks is the best solution. Cyclops is synthesizing various philosophies. There may be more Magneto in there than previous, but it's not the dominant strand by any means.

And to state the obvious: Magneto never formed a super-team to protect the world.

3) I'm sure you've been keeping up with James Asmus' "Generation Hope." In a recent issue, Hope and the Lights "rescued" Sebastian Shaw and brought him back to Utopia. Cyclops certainly wasn't happy about this. Can you clarify when this takes place in the timeline with Uncanny X-Men? How will it affect events and character relationships?

I think you should wait until that story's over to really discuss those kind of elements. Until James has resolved stuff, I fear I'll step on his story.

4) While on the same subject, Emma kept Shaw a secret from Cyclops despite their promise in "X-Men: The Confession" to have no more secrets. Now that she seems to have gone back on this promise, how will that affect her relationship with Cyclops?

Once again, I'll nod at the previous answer. But, yes, this is clearly a tricky one. And there's things shaking up Scott and Emma's relationships soon enough over in 'Uncanny' anyway.

Many X-men writers handle these columns differently. I'm not convinced that some don't answer these questions sober. But Kieron Gillen always displays class in interviews. It's refreshing to know that a writer of a big time comic takes his shit seriously. I know that may not sound like much, but it goes a long way in ensuring that comics stay awesome.

His explanation about Cyclops being too Magneto-like actually adds some needed context because a lot of people on message boards have been bitching lately that he's become too much of a dictator. The sad part is they're not entirely wrong in their bitching. He certainly has taken on the mold of a Magneto type character with his willingness to make humanity shit themselves whenever they walk down the street. But there is purpose behind it. There are circumstances involved and like anyone whose memory has been bombed by booze and weed, those circumstances are easy to forget.

But on more pressing issues, I'm glad someone finally mantioned the P-word in the comics. Normally the P-word to me is an impromtu prostate exam. But Phoenix is just as bad on some levels (but not all if you know my doctor). It makes sense that someone as twisted as Sinister would bring it up and he seems to be preparing for it. Gillen has given Sinister some added charm to his already twisted persona and now that he's his own army, that's something that even the Extinction team should have problems with. If that little girl with red hair, green eyes, and a fiery disposition that isn't Jean Grey gets too moody, that'll only make it worse.

And I know I frequently rant about Marvel's apparant unwillingness to do anything with the Cyclops/Emma relationship, but I feel a strange sense of hope when Gillen says that it will be addressed soon enough. I hope he does more with it than Matt Fraction, who only used conflict to get these two in bed. It was less a relationship and more an extended episode of Two and a Half Men (the pre-Kutcher saga). Gillen has already shown a willingness to dig deeper with the characters than most writers who have graced the pages of Uncanny. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt in handling the ever frustrating relatinship issues of Cyclops and Emma Frost.

Overall, Gillen has done more than enough to earn the confidence of every Uncanny X-men fan that ever lived. Sure, it's a book that set the bar impossibly high with talent like Chris Claremont. But that doesn't mean guys like Gillen can't still kick ass with it and after just four issues into the relaunch, my ass is as tender as an overmarinated flank steak. Nuff said!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

X-men Legacy #260.1 - A New Legacy of Awesome

I tend to catch my share of flack for my drunken rantings on this blog. Sometimes it help that I'm too drunk to even remember the shit I wrote at times. My review for X-men Legacy #260 wasn't one of those reviews. I admit it was a bittersweet and disappointing moment in my history of drunken rants. I was genuinely dismayed at how Mike Carey chose to end his run on X-men Legacy, a book that he spent years turning into one of the most consistently awesome X-books on the racks. Between a seemingly needless plot with a needless character revival and needless scenes that show Magneto and Rogue swapping body fluids, there was too much for even my robust liver to process. But that doesn't mean I've given up on X-men Legacy and that doesn't mean my view on these characters is tainted, although the same can't be said for Rogue's pussy anymore.

The final issue of X-men Legacy (after the bullshit plot with Ariel was over), showed Rogue and most of her Legacy crew heading to Westchester to help Wolverine build the Jean Grey Institute for Higher Learning. It ended one era of X-men comics and entered another. So to set the stage for what this new era will entail, X-men Legacy released another one of Marvel's .1 issues under a new writer, Christos Gage. Aside from reminding me that I suck at math, this book also reminds readers that Mike Carey is gone. His legacy has been established and now it's Gage's turn to build on it. Despite the last issue, he has a daunting challenge ahead of him. He's like Peyton Manning's backup, sheltered behind a star and given very little chance. But Gage can still show that he's more Aaron Rogers than Curtis Painter. To do that, he'll have to show how the Legacy crew functions at the Jean Grey Institute and make it awesome.

He begins X-men Legacy #260.1 with the basics. Those football metaphors weren't just because I get extra drunk for the NFL playoffs every year. It was actually a prelude. Gage's first act for the legacy crew is for them to play a friendly game of mutant football on the grounds of the newly constructed institute. I never like to get too excited by just one panel, but I'm already liking the way Gage is thinking. It's what you would expect of a game of football if someone gave the Oakland Raiders steroids. It's full of superpowers, trash talk, and Rockslide gets obliterated worse than Joe Theisman's leg. Sure, he heals, but it's a nice light-hearted moment for the Legacy crew. Definitely a step up from Rogue boning Magneto.

The game ends in a way that was only slightly less exciting than the way the Broncos/Steelers Wild Card game ended where Tim Tebow cost me fifty bucks. Rockslide gets obliterated while Rogue shows off the control she has of her powers by not only pulling his sorry ass together, but making him more badass. It doesn't go unnoticed by Gambit, who has had a boner for her since Clinton was getting head from Monica. But this demonstration of control has a much larger message that Gambit and Frenzy realize. Rogue is moving forward with her newfound control and Gambit really is the same douche-bag he was back on Utopia, constantly looking for ways to bone her. Frenzy points this out to him, who still has wet panties for Cyclops. But neither are in a position to really bust each others balls so they agree to leave it in the past. They probably should have also agreed to check out a mysterious portal that opened not far from where Rockslide got the Ray Lewis treatment, but boners and wet panties come first I suppose.

That portal quickly turns into yet another crisis for the Jean Grey Institute. Fresh off the attack by Karoka, a sudden invasion of demons from another realm seems less daunting. Now some may be asking where the fuck these demons came from and how can they not be contrived? Well they actually serve a purpose here. While the Legacy crew and some of the Wolverine and the X-men crew get ready for battle, Beast actually uses this as an opportunity to lecture younger mutants on the finer points of demons. He assures everyone and the execs at Marvel that they're not ripoffs of the Alien movies. They're the N'garai, who hang out with the elder god, Cthon. I slept through my class on Marvel universe mythology so I won't begin to get into that, but makes this compelling is that Beast uses this lecture to essentially narrate what the X-men are up against. This way the reader doesn't have to sour wikipedia or get high to make their own conclusions. It's still a cliched demon invasion, but at least Christos Gage tries to make it feel logical.

And as true logic dictates, when demons come knocking on your door you treat them the same way you would treat a Jehovah's Witness. You fight back and if necessary, beat the everloving shit out of them. Like in previous Legacy books, Rogue leads the charge with Frenzy, Gambit, and Rachel Grey providing support. Even other non Legacy members like Iceman and Cannonball get involved, which helps make this book really feel like it's part of Team Wolverine now. In the background, Beast keeps lecturing as to how these creatures were sealed before and how they got out. It amounts to magic being an inexact (and horribly inefficient) science.

What really makes a .1 issue stand out in addition to reminding readers that math sucks is that it's organized as a much more coherent, self-contained story. Beast's lecture along with the battle between the Legacy crew and the N'garai help give this book the coherent feel that's so important to these titles. They could easily cut that shit out and make this just another issue of X-men Legacy. But then we wouldn't find out that all those little demons that the Legacy crew were slaying were the equivalent of worker ants. If you kill enough of them, the queen is going to take notice and as nature dictates the queen (or Mabdhara as Beast describes it) is always bigger and meaner than any of the other creatures. Except this one actually talks and threatens to use the bodies of the X-men to make the portal into her realm wider, presumably so she can move more of her shit into their domain. Sounds a lot like my ex-girlfriend, but not quite as cruel.

The battle quickly turns against the Legacy crew. The Mabdhara, also like my ex-girlfriend, is much meaner and more aggressive than her warrior drones. She quickly surrounds the Legacy crew and begins to overwhelm them. Then in true Legacy fashion, Rogue takes charge and comes up with a plan. She leaves the others to hold their own for a while, which sounds like a dick move until you find out what she's doing. First, she gets Cannonball's volatile sister, Paige, to take care of the demons that snuck past the X-men. Then she borrows powers from a couple of students. She doesn't even make them feel woozy either like she used to. She just reassures them that all the loud banging noises are nothing to be worried about. That's what my landlord told me about the neighbors/S&M club in my old apartment building. You know it's bullshit, but you just learn to accept it.

Armed with these new powers, Rogue storms out like an elemental titan. She has the size and grandeur of Kaorka, who joined the institute at the end of the first arc of Wolverine and the X-men. She also has Idie's powers. So the Mabdhara and her N'garai thugs really don't stand a chance. Rogue looks as badass as you would expect in an X-men Legacy book, stomping out the demon hoards in the same way 11th grade English class stomps out a student's will to live. Gambit, Frenzy, and the others get a few shots in, but it's Rogue who sends the demons packing. They eventually realize that they stand no chance and tuck whatever qualifies as their dicks between their legs and runs off.

It's a visually stunning way to end a fight that was nicely drawn out and perfectly orchestrated. These were all marks of Mike Carey's run and Christos Gage continues that theme nicely. Moreover, he continues the progress that Rogue made throughout Carey's run. Before Carey, Rogue really couldn't control her powers and she didn't have much authority with the X-men. This scene sends a clear message. Rogue not only has control. She has the credibility and respect of the other X-men. She's seen as a leader, a role that Cyclops took from her after Second Coming. It not only builds on what Mike Carey established, but it takes it to a new level under Gage.

The demons are gone and the inevitable clean-up begins. We're left to assume that the Jean Grey Institute either has significant emergency funds or the most understanding insurance company in the history of the universe. But while they're cleaning, Rogue and Gambit have a chat. But it's not the kind of chat you would expect from two characters that have been undressing each other with their eyes for nearly two decades. She just reminds Gambit that she has more control over herself than she did before, which probably means she's not going to be letting him in her panties anytime soon. Gambit really doesn't push either. It seems pretty pointless in some ways because most X-men readers know of their history. It seems utterly lost on them. It just reinforces what Rogue's huge display of power already made apparent. She's determined to protect the kids of the school from the kind of bullshit that fucked her up for years. It's a nice way of setting up the theme for X-men Legacy, but utterly ignores the underlying drama between these characters.

Not content to deal with old drama, Gage throws in a twist at the end to set up a new kind of drama. Since Rogue doesn't seem keen on inviting Gambit for a post-victory fuck, he meets up with Frenzy. It's understandable too since they're both struggling with dramas that involve love interests that won't fuck them. Gambit reflects on how Rogue doesn't depend on anybody anymore, therefore making her less inclined to sleep with him. Frenzy still belittles him, but that doesn't stop them from sharing a nice kiss at the end. It sounds random, but given all the sexual frustration these two endure it's amazing they haven't humped the first thing with a pulse.

I'm not against Gambit/Frenzy becoming a new couple. Let's face it, it's nowhere near as fucked up as some of the other pairings Marvel has thrown together over the years. This is one I'm sure some fans won't mind jerking off to, but others might be a bit put off by how Gambit and Rogue just seem completely uninterested in one another. Granted, Gambit's still probably emasculated after Rogue boned Magneto, but his relationship with her has never been overtly addressed. It feels like this relationship is being set up before the details surrounding Gambit and Rogue are filled in. Seeing as how Gambit/Rogue has some pretty rabid fans out there, I imagine this is going to piss them off worse than Tim Tebow pisses off atheists.

Whenever a comic goes through a transitional period, it's expected to be a little rough at times. It's not unlike taking a really big shit after having binged on tacos after getting drunk at two in the morning. It's a painful, yet necessary part of the process of life. The transition from Mike Carey to Christos Gage wasn't quite as messy. At times it was hard to notice a real change since so many of Mike Carey's stories are so deeply entrenched. But Gage definitely established a different tone. Now it's really not clear if this is just because the team is now at the Jean Grey Institute, in which case it wouldn't have mattered if Mike Carey stayed. But this issue really came off as Gage's attempt to show that he could write an X-men comic. At times it seems like he tries too hard, but he still succeeds.

Gage was very basic here. He had the Legacy crew interacting with a number of other Team Wolverine characters and each other. Not a whole lot was revealed from this. Rogue is still an aspiring leader and visionary, but her interactions with the others really didn't show much drama. She still looked pretty badass with how she used her powers, which she did daily in Carey's run so it's nice to see that Gage has kept that tradition. The final scene with Frenzy and Gambit seemed only somewhat random, but it didn't feel nearly as contrived as it could have been. Gambit and Rogue haven't been shown as being into each other since George W. Bush was still president. It's long overdue that something else come along and establish a new sense of drama.

Overall, this was a solid first issue for Gage. It had everything one could want in an X-men Legacy comic. It does a great job of taking the tone established by Jason Aaron in Wolverine and the X-men and integrating it into the style of storytelling of X-men Legacy. It's definitely a transition book and these books are always difficult to grade. Like my old algebra class, you have to use a curve or else you'll just skew the results. So with that in mind I'm giving X-men Legacy #260.1 a 4 out of 5. Part of me wants it to be lower. Part of me wants it a bit higher. But Gage really didn't make too many egregious mistakes here and he did utilize some compelling plots. So for that, I'll leave this score as tentative. Whether or not it sticks depends on how future issues are developed. For now, this is a solid X-men Legacy title. I'm sure I'll still catch shit for my assessment of this and previous X-men Legacy issues. That only means I have more excuses to get drunk. Thanks haters! Nuff said.