Thursday, January 31, 2013

Xtreme X-men #9 - Dazzler vs. Zombie Killer Dazzler

I used to know a guy whose sole mission in life was to try and upstage me at every possible turn. If I drank six beers, he tried to drink seven. If I did three lines of blow, he tried to do four. If I dated a girl and broke up with her after she found out I used her credit card to buy $800 in porn, then he tried to bang his girlfriend's sister and mother simultaneously. Needless to say, he pissed me off to no end. Granted, it all worked out. One time he thought I chugged a gallon of gasoline that was just wine smuggled in a gas tank. I don't know if they ever found a liver doner, but I think he learned his lesson. But the point of the story is that sometimes you're going to have to deal with assholes trying to upstage you and you can't always rely on their stupidity or their inability to discern wine from gasoline.

In the pages of Xtreme X-men, Dazzler has recently encountered some competition for her leadership position in her team of dimensionally displaced X-men. If she had balls, they would already be partially busted because she only recently proved her ability to lead the team when she, Wolverine, and Sage visited Kid Nightcrawler's universe and rescued him from killer robots and still had time to make a pit stop in 616 to get the blessing of Cyclops (although his blessing is worth about as much as Vanilla Ice's street cred these days). Yet when she returned to the Xavier-in-a-Jar, she found out he already replaced her with another more badass Dazzler that came from a universe where she led her own X-Force team against zombie hoards for a living. You can beat all the killer robots you want and get all the blessings from Cyclops you want, but you just can't beat zombie killers.

In Xtreme X-men #8, Greg Pak delivered yet another fucked up incarnation of Charles Xavier that was akin to an episode of My Little Pony on a bad acid trip. Both Dazzler teams were able to beat him, but Zombie Killer Dazzler understands that having two hot blondes on the same team just doesn't work in a non-porno situation. Xavier-in-a-Jar made up his mind. He wants the Zombie Killer Dazzler. And to prove it, the two fought each other in what should have been a bra and panties match in mud. But I guess Pak ran out of time and just had Zombie Killer Dazzler apparently kill her. I say that with the least urgent tone possible because it's painfully obvious that she's not dead. She's a pretty blond in a major comic book. Unlike slasher movies, they don't die. Marvel knows they need all the hot blonds for their fans to masturbate to as possible. So it's a given she'll survive, but it's not a given how she'll take on her zombie killing counterpart.

But before Dazzler can begin to contemplate how she’ll become more Paris Hilton and less Nichole Richie, we’re first introduced to the latest threat her team. The first pages of Xtreme X-men #9 introduce yet another douche-bag version of Charles Xavier that the multi-verse can do without. While Greg Pak has introduced many such Xaviers over the course of this series, he’s usually done a good job of mixing it up a little. We’ve had old West evil Xavier, we’ve had an Asgardian manipulating wannabe Xavier, and even a My Little Pony Xavier (that turned out to be a demon, but that’s besides the point). Pak knows how to mix this shit up is what I’m saying. So when the Xavier in this issue turns out to be your standard evil wizard in a setting that could be the backdrop for every major Lord of the Rings ripoff, it’s a little bland. It’s basically as standard an evil Xavier as you can get. That just makes the main antagonist in this comic less imposing if you're reading the comic sober.

The non-zombie killing Dazzler wakes up in this world, having been seriously wounded at the end of the last issue when her zombie killing counterpart fucking stabbed her. She has a nasty bandage over her chest, yet for some reason doesn’t seem all that woozy. I know there are some wounds that the tough and the ballsy shake off. Football players shake off concussions, boxers shake off broken jaws, and Chuck Norris shakes off gunshot wounds. But Dazzler woke up from being stabbed in the just as if it were a mild hangover. Having had my share of hangovers, I can say definitively that even the toughest don’t look that chipper even if they wake up in Megan Fox’s bath tub.

This somewhat contrived wake-up call forces Dazzler to catch up with the shit that’s going on around her. Apparently, the rest of her team is in the middle of a Lord of the Rings style battle. But instead of Orc, they’re fighting evil Beasts. Given what a monumental douche Beast has been in the comics lately, that’s a pretty terrifying threat. But zombie killer Dazzler, who apparently doesn’t give half a nanogram of shit about stabbing her counterpart, is leading them into battle. She doesn’t have much strategy. She’s just telling her team that there are monsters in front of them so killing them must somehow solve the problem. For some reason, Dazzler has a problem with that. And for a reason that’s even more fucked up, she doesn’t seem to care about the stab wound in her chest. It’s never even explained how serious the wound is. I’m all for X-men looking badass, but a fucking stab wound is not something that should be glossed over.

Regardless of how wounded she is, Dazzler is not about to let some bitch that just stabbed her take over her team and lead them with the ability of a relapsed drunk. She confronts her counterpart, but again the whole stabbing thing is brushed aside. I assume she was about to slowly explain to her why just running into an army of angry Beasts is a shitty battle tactic, but I guess she figured she can’t rationalize a situation she can’t stab. So with that in mind, Dazzler forcibly takes some of her dignity back by using her powers to effectively nuke the army in front of her. It’s the kind of dazzling display that few attractive blonds not named Lady Gaga can match. And for a girl who was recently stabbed, it’s pretty impressive and actually gets her team to stop following the crazy bitch that doesn’t look before crossing the street and listen to her. It’s not just badass, but it demonstrates that Dazzler is taking this whole leadership shit pretty seriously and isn’t going to let some stab-happy counterpart take that away from her.

Having proven her capabilities in the most blinding way possible, she gathers the team and some of the natives who happen to look like mini-Nightcrawlers. I guess with him being dead and/or an evil, traitorous prick Marvel has to make entire races of rip-offs to fill the void. But they’re actually pretty useful in that they provide Dazzler with a layout of the stronghold of the Witch King, aka the Evil Sauron-style Xavier. Armed with this information, she formulates a plan that involves Wolverine and Hercules infiltrating the castle from one end while attacking from another. It’s not as glorious as charging head-first into the front end of his army, but it has a better chance of actually doing more than just laughing his ass off at how stupid their tactics are.

Pak also uses this little planning phase to play up the dynamic between Wolverine and Hercules. In case your priest, imam, or Fox News anchor didn’t bitch about it recently, this version of Wolverine is gay and he’s swapping man meat with Hercules. And part of Dazzler’s plan involve them dressing up as Orcs, but in a way that would be more fitting in a gay pride parade than a Lord of the Rings style battle. I’m not saying that’s wrong. Hell, I think it’s awesome that Pak is making it clear that these two are hot for each other and are willing to dress up in ways that would make Pat Robertson’s head explode. And anything that disgusts Pat Robertson and men like him is awesome in my book!

So without anyone stabbing anybody this time, the plan is put into action. It’s not as epic a battle as it could have been. It actually feels a little rushed. But the point of the battle is to show that there are more efficient ways to take down an evil Xavier that don’t involve trying to go through his armies of monstrous Beasts. And much to the chagrin of the zombie killer Dazzler, it actually works. Wolverine and Hercules are able to draw the attention of Wizard Xavier’s armies away with their overwhelming strength and powerful man-love that puts anything Stephanie Meyer ever wrote to shame. This leaves Wizard Xavier’s stronghold more exposed than Pamela Anderson’s tits in bikini, thus Dazzler, Black Cyclops, Nightcrawler, and zombie killer Dazzler to slip inside. It’s not the most elaborate strategy in the history of warfare, but it works. They also blow up the bridge in the process because what’s a little strategy without a little “fuck you” thrown into the mix?

While this strategy allows Dazzler and her team to get around Wizard Xavier’s armies, the process of actually kicking his ass is a lot more difficult. Apparently, Dazzler didn’t have any strategy for that. But since she’s so new at this whole leadership thing, I’m willing to cut her some slack. The same can’t be said for Wizard Xavier, who exercises a mix of Harry Potter and Darth Vadar in how he takes on Dazzler and her team. He’s not gentle, he’s not merciful, and he really doesn’t try to do anything you wouldn’t expect a completely unapologetic douche-bag to do. It’s as overly basic as it sounds, which is somewhat disappointing given how Greg Pak has thrown in plenty of twists in the past with evil Xaviers. This is no pony Xavier like in the last arc, not by a long shot. So if you were hoping to be shocked again, stop holding your breath. Unless you’re doing a bong hit, that shit isn’t healthy.

It’s looking pretty bad for Dazzler, but once again her zombie killing counterpart just can’t stand to be upstaged. She already saw how her charge-the-massive-army-of-monsters tactics was proven to be fucking stupid. She needs to redeem herself somehow and what better way than to use the same tactic her counterpart used earlier and push her powers to eye-melting limits. Zombie killer Dazzler effectively ditches any notion of self-preservation and attacks Wizard Xavier with the kind of blinding force you won’t see outside a fireworks show on an LSD trip. She ends up pushing herself so far that she not only kills Wizard Xavier. She effectively burns out her own body until she’s nothing more than a figure of light that eventually fades.

This is yet another gaping plot hole that isn’t really explained. So if Dazzler pushes her powers that hard, she just turns into a walking hologram that eventually fades out? When the fuck did that become a potential problem for her? It makes sense on some levels, but not enough to prevent sober minds from asking WTF? Drunk minds may only be concerned with there being one less hot blond, but no matter how intoxicated a reader might be it is still a moment that should leave plenty of confusion.

Even if you are more confused by zombie killing Dazzler’s little display than a transvestite in a public restroom, it still makes for a powerful moment. This issue and the previous issue introduced some heavy competition for Dazzler’s leadership and now it’s safe to say that she’s channeled her inner Charlie Sheen and come out a winner. Her zombie killing counterpart isn’t even a sore loser either. She expresses confidence that she’ll do whatever crazy shit she needs to do in order to take down the rest of the evil Charles Xaviers. She even leaves Dazzler with her more badass uniform, which she greatly accepts. It doesn’t show quite as much cleavage, but the two gay men in the group voice no complaints about her fashion sense so it must be okay.

Anyone who puts his or her socks on one at a time admits on some level that it feels pretty damn good to upstage someone who was a complete asshole to you. There are few greater dick moves than just stabbing someone in the chest and not even apologizing for it. Yet for reasons that only Jesus Christ himself would understand, Dazzler didn’t make a big deal of it in this issue. Rather than bitch and moan about how begin stabbed hurts, she spent the bulk of this comic proving that she was a better leader and better equipped to take down evil Xaviers. And she fucking proved it in a way that would shrivel the scrotum of nearly every self-righteous douche-bag who ever owned a Prius or listened to Rush Limbaugh.

This has been the challenge of Xtreme X-men since it began. Pretty much every arc revolves around Dazzler and her team hunting down evil Charles Xaviers. Shit like that can get old pretty fast. X-men fans have been used to Charles Xavier being a douche since Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-men run. So Greg Pak has to inject more elements into these stories to make them interesting. And damn it, he succeeds. Although this issue was a bit overly basic at times and didn’t really throw in any huge twists like some of the previous arcs, it took events from a previous story and added a new element to the story. Dazzler only recently earned her role as leader of the team. Now she’s solidified it in a way that nobody who enjoys eating solid food or not being blind will ever dare question.

This issue was solid, but it was a bit more condensed than previous issues and in some instances that proved detrimental. It glossed over that little fact about Alison being stabbed in the previous issue and being more than capable of winning a battle against an army of Beasts. It also didn’t really develop the new black Cyclops all that much, nor did it explain clearly what happened with X-Force Dazzler when she faded. There were one too many blanks to fill in. It would have helped to have some narration at some points and dialog that was a bit more detailed, but in the end the story still succeeded in its primary goal to bitch slap all doubts about Dazzler’s leadership.

I liken the gaps in this issue to those nasty potholes on the highway. You can’t avoid them and they’re annoying as hell, but unless you’re a whiney little bitch you don’t complain about them. You just acknowledge them and keep driving until you reach the bar and/or strip club. This issue got readers to said bar and/or strip club, albeit in a less-than-smooth ride. Greg Pak continues to find ways to make a series centered around killing evil Charles Xaviers compelling and finds yet another way to make an attractive blonde badass in a way that you can still masturbate to. I give Xtreme X-men #9 a 3.5 out of 5. Yes, it has gaps. But it also has goblins, wizards, muscular gay men, demons, beasts, and two hot blonds trying to upstage one another. If that shit isn’t enough for you, then you’re an asshole or a Mormon. Nuff said!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wolverine and the X-men #24 - Romantically Charming Awesome

What is it about romance in superhero comics that get fans so up in arms? It's not enough to care about our favorite heroes saving the world from unspeakable evil. We must also scrutinize who they are or aren't boning. It began with the likes of Superman and Lois Lane. It has since become a collection of cults where fans of all colors play the part of Team Edward and Team Jacob while never admitting they're basically behaving like crazed Twilight fans with respect to certain relationships. I admit I'm guilty myself of having certain preferences for romance in comics. But I try to maintain perspective.

Now all my ex-girlfriends will disagree with me here, but I do consider myself a sentimental person and not just to the person who gives me a beer. I think it's actually important for characters to have meaningful relationships, romantic and otherwise. Even the most noble of superheroes needs to get their dick or pussy wet from time to time. They're heroes. Not monks. And there are few comics that generate more online flame wars than romance in X-men comics.

It goes all the way back to the days where Cyclops and Jean Grey were the only couple in town. There are now parts of the internet where fans of the Wolverine/Jean Grey romance try to place voodoo curses on fans who support the Wolverine/Storm romance and pretty much everyone likes to shit on the Cyclops/Jean Grey relationship because Odin forbid that a relationship actually becomes serious. And it's not just the fans either. Marvel and DC have a history of horribly butchering relationships, sometimes even selling them to the devil to get rid of them. I can't think of a good example off the top of my head while I'm drunk, but I'm sure you get the idea.

For those reasons, I'm always a little excited and a little anxious when Marvel decides to dedicate an issue to romance. Wolverine and the X-men is not the comic you would expect to explore that kind of romance. This is a comic that just ended an arc involving homicidal clowns, Frankenstein monsters, and witches. It's about as fitting an environment for romance as a Chanukah ceremony on Mel Gibsons's front yard. But in the same way I can't turn down a bottle of exotic liquor given to me by some one-eyed Russian at a crack house, I can't help but be curious as to what sort of romance will unfold in the X-books in wake of the Marvel NOW! relaunch.

Wolverine and the X-men #24 marks the first real arc that takes place after the relaunch. We catch up with Storm, who recently joined the Jean Grey Institute after Cyclops got hauled off to jail and her husband annulled their marriage. But unlike other marriages that crash and burn after an epic fight, Storm somehow manages to stay on good terms with Black Panther. They even share some games of chess and video chats while she’s gardening. For all I know, there are court-appointed lawyers in the background making sure shit stays calm. Maybe it helps that they didn’t have to hire Judge Judy to handle their annulment, but I’m pretty sure this is the most civil two ex’s have ever been with one another, fictional or otherwise. However, Black Panther makes clear to Storm that while he will respect her renewed right to fuck indiscriminately, he urges her to NOT fuck one man in particular. And anyone who has ever dealt with an ex before knows that when you give them a chance to fuck with you, they’ll usually take it and enjoy it all the more. Guess Black Panther will have to find that shit out the hard way.

For Wolverine, he enters the new Marvel NOW! era of this book the same way he enters any new era and that’s by getting shit faced at a bar. I can think of no instance where that’s not appropriate. However, Rachel Grey sees fit to deny him because she and the rest of the Jean Grey Institute staff are going out for some much needed downtime and possibly some “indiscriminate coupling” as Warbird puts it. That means Wolverine is stuck babysitting the students. It sucks because it means he can’t get drunk, but he of all people knows the value of indiscriminate coupling.

But sadly, not everybody is engaging in indiscriminate coupling on their off night. Iceman and Kitty Pryde have also used this opportunity to go on their first real date. Now this is actually a development that has been quite some time in the making. Iceman and Kitty flirted as far back as the first arc of Wolverine and the X-men. After Colossus went Phoenix crazy and forced Kitty to break up with him, she and Iceman agreed to give it a try. However, right off the bat shit is pretty weird. Kitty even points it out and why shouldn’t she? She just broke up with a guy that was a vessel for a cosmic force and an unstoppable force. She also was a side-show act in a circus. How the fuck does anyone live normally after shit like that? It’s not an unreasonable question to ask when you’re trying to establish a new relationship that you hope won’t end with somebody getting fucked up on cosmic power.

Then there are some of the established couples, like Beast and Agent Brand. I still think Beast is a complete douche-bag, but I’ve already gone on record as saying I approve of his new non-cat look. Since this takes place after the first arc in All New X-men, Beast gets to show it off with Agent Brand. She’s perfectly inclined to enjoy their off night with some wine and a little exercise of her fur fetish. However, Beast is apparently tired of being a douche to Cyclops so he’s a douche to his girlfriend by allowing himself to be distracted by the autopsy of Broo, who was shot in the head recently by the Hellfire brats. If that’s his idea of a romantic night, I don’t even want to think about what Brand has to do to give him a boner.

Now this sounds like a dick move and it is, but it does actually have a purpose in the sense that it ties into another ongoing plot. The Broo story has not been resolved and it too has romantic undertones because Idie had expressed an interest in Broo. I have no idea why, but who am I to judge the proclivities of a teenage girl? Beyond crazy alien fetishes, it adds a certain level of coherence and continuity to Wolverine and the X-men that has been lacking since Avengers vs. X-men. It’s the kind of attention to detail that may not sound like much, but goes a long fucking way in a comic.

Continuing with this theme of effective tie-ins, Jason Aaron takes some time to work the events of All New X-men into the story even more by throwing Jean Grey into the mix. Hey, she’s been dead for nearly a decade. She deserves every fucking scene she gets at this point. Whereas the adults are pursuing their various romantic proclivities, Kid Omega does a little angry teenage venting at the grave of Charles Xavier. There, he meets Jean Grey and he instinctively tries to hook up with her. I admit, I would do the same thing. But he’s a total douche about it. Thankfully, Jean Grey rejects him. Even as a wide-eyed teenager stuck in the future, she’s smart enough not to entertain the loins of narcissistic teenagers like Kid Omega. Any woman who ever saw someone like Kid Omega take advantage of naïve girls should burst into tears for this scene.

Meanwhile, Wolverine is the odd man out not getting his dick wet for once. I’m sure it’s a strange feeling, not being able to get drunk and fuck any woman with bad boy fetish. So he takes it out with his second favorite anger management tactic after drinking, and that’s tearing the Danger Room to pieces.

But what should be a fairly typical tirade of self-loathing for a guy with so few reasons to do so takes a turn for the better when Storm joins him. Somehow a beautiful woman always finds a reasons to hang out with him. That may make most men hate him even more, but Storm has just as good a reason for wanting to tear some shit up. She’s a recent divorcee in need of some venting. She also wants to talk to Wolverine about assuming the role as headmistress while Kitty Pryde is handling the Original Five. Given Wolverine’s uncanny ability to fuck things up with friends, enemies, and teenagers alike it’s always a good idea to have someone who can shove a lightning bolt up his ass when he needs it.

As for Kitty and Iceman’s date, things take a new twist when they finally come to conclusion that they can’t just pretend they’re a normal couple on a normal date. They’re fucking X-men for crying out loud! They fight killer robots and cosmic forces every other week. Normal just is too boring for them. So rather than pretend, they say “Fuck it, we’ll do it our own way!” and go on a little excursion that involves riding tornados and bringing blocks of ice to poor desert dwellers. It’s the kind of shit most people can’t do on a date. Yet they can and it serves the same purpose. It doesn’t seem romantic to us normal folk, but to them it works and Jason Aaron shows this. It actually taps into a larger issue about how superheroes even go about normal activities like dating. I mean if you can have a good time with ice powers and tornado riding, why shouldn’t that count as romantic?

In the end Kitty and Iceman’s date is a success. They call it the greatest date ever, which is why it’s pretty fucked up when Kitty Pryde thinks they should just break up and leave it at this. Now this is a case study in fucked up logic. It makes perfect sense to retire from professional sports after winning a championship, but you don’t end a relationship that’s going well. That’s basically an admission that you would rather take a beat up old used car through the desert rather than a brand new Lexus. But that doesn’t matter to Iceman. He still gets a kiss out of it. Not sure if he gets a some of Kitty’s “other” kitty, but I’m sure fanfiction writers will fill in the blanks.

But Iceman isn’t the only one to swap some spit. In accepting her role as headmistress to the Jean Grey Institute, Storm gave Wolverine a caveat of sorts. She asked that he cut her hair so that she’s in her old mohawk style once more. I know a lot of recently divorced women go through some pretty fucked up things when their marriage ends. But since this doesn’t involve throwing Molotov cocktails through the windows of her ex, cutting her hair into a mohawk isn’t even top ten. But she doesn’t stop there. When it’s over, she does exactly what Black Panther told her not to do and kisses Wolverine. So for once that cover wasn’t a fucking ruse. They actually did kiss and it didn’t involve alternate reality versions of themselves for once. It’s even implied they humped in the shower. I’m pretty sure this also counts as a huge “Fuck you!” to Black Panther and as someone who despised that relationship from the beginning it’s oh so satisfying!

It would be great if this comic could end on a happy note that gets romance lovers all giddy and/or a little horny. But at some point we have to remember that Jason Aaron is the writer of this comic. It just wouldn’t be natural if he didn’t throw in something fucked up. In this case, we revisit the comatose Broo. Idie pays him a visit and there’s a nice little moment at first. But then Broo wakes up from his coma. And instead of a Snow White moment, we get a Freddy Kruger moment because Broo’s first inclination is to attack her and use her bones as a tooth pick. So if you were left sobbing uncontrollably from all the romance, this scene should get you sufficiently sick to your stomach once more. Everybody wins.

I know I don’t come off as much of a romantic on this blog. I guess it’s hard to be romantic when your drunk, stoned, or hung over. But make no mistake. I do have a strong appreciation for romance and an equally strong appreciation for comics that take the time to focus on it. I think every fanboy appreciates it on some level. Even if they’re a hairy chest, steak-eating, whiskey drinking, bear-wrestling manly man, they genuinely care about the love lives of their favorite characters and what they do when they’re not destroying killer robots. And this issue shows how a romance-centric issue can be awesome without being too Twilightish.

Wolverine and the X-men #24 not only fleshes out romantic sub-plots that have been building within the pages of this series for a while now, like Iceman and Kitty Pryde. It establishes new ones that have the potential to set naughty fanfiction writers’ asses ablaze. While romances like Idie and Broo are cute and all, a romance between Wolverine and Storm is a different kind of headline. These are two of the most well-known X-men and now they’re shaving each other’s heads and bumping uglies in the shower. They’re basically doing all the shit fans wish Superman and Wonder Woman would do. This along with all the other personal moments that tie into a solid, well-rounded story that doesn’t need shit blowing up to be awesome.

This issue was a hell of a shift from the previous story, which involved Frankenstein and an army of homicidal clowns. In some ways that shift is a bit jarring. Jason Aaron doesn’t usually focus too heavily on romantic sub-plots and with this issue it’s hard to see why. He’s no Chris Claremont with the romantic tension, but he offers an appropriately subtle approach. He also uses those same romantic sub-plots to move other stories forward, namely the story with Broo and the Original Five X-men showing up. This helps make the comic seem like it isn’t one of those filler issues. It actually is part of a larger story. At times it’s a bit overly subtle, but I think Jason Aaron makes it very effective.

The implications of this issue are pretty damn big. Forget the Iceman/Kitty plot that few fans seemed to give a shit about. Wolverine and Storm is not a new concept. Hell, the original X-men Animated Series had two whole episodes that showed them married, in love, and saving the whole damn future. It’s a relationship that has spawned many fanfiction stories, pornographic and non-pornographic alike. Marvel has teased at their closeness in the past. But they’ve never been all that serious about it. Like Superman and Wonder Woman, it’s an idea that has always been there. It just hasn’t been seriously explored. Could this finally be that moment when they say, “Fuck it, let’s see how this goes?” I don’t know, but at the very least I’m glad that cover wasn’t just another fucking cock tease.

Wolverine and the X-men #24 has appeal that goes beyond the Storm/Wolverine or Iceman/Kitty shippers. This is a book that establishes a new kind of drama and a new kind of conflict in the pages of Wolverine and the X-men. Granted, it’s a very significant shift from previous arcs. It involves no nightmare circuses, alien casinos, or homicidal kids…yet. But if you can ignore Jason Aaron’s history of injecting enemas of pure fucked-up awesome into this series, you’ll find a lot to enjoy about this issue. Wolverine and the X-men #24 gets a 4.5 out of 5. I hope Marvel understands that while Twilight may suck the balls of a billion rabid bulls, it still appeals to a sizable chunk of the population and makes a metric fuckton of money. So they have a vested interest in fleshing out these romantic sub-plots, especially with Wolverine and Storm. If they don’t, perverse fanfiction writers will and I don’t think they want more S&M stories for their characters than they already have. Nuff said!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Newsarama Update: What We Know About "X-men Days of Futures Past"

It's been a while since I talked about anything related to the X-men movies. I sort of have to because anytime I start talking about X-men movies I black out and wake up face down on my kitchen floor with all my booze gone and a stabbing pain in my ass. That's what happens when Fox and Marvel collectively gangbang the movies into oblivion with shit like X3 and Wolverine Origins. I mean what the fuck were they on when they came up with fucking Barakapool? There are some drugs that even I won't touch and that would be one of them.

But whether this shit kills my liver or not, it doesn't change the fact that these movies make a fuckton of money and Odin knows that the big wigs at Fox and Marvel can never have enough imported blow. While X-men First Class was an upgrade purely because it didn't follow any of the shit storms kicked up by the previous movies, Bryan Singer is looking to take it a step further with X-men First Class: Days of Futures Past. He's looking to do the exact opposite of what Brett Ratner did and NOT fuck up one of the most beloved stories in the history of X-men. That shouldn't sound too hard on paper, but given how Singer himself says he hated X3 he knows he's got a lot of unfucking to do.

Nope. Still not enough to undo X3. Nice try though.
Thankfully, Singer appears to be pulling out all the stops. He's not just bringing the X-men First Class crew back into the fold. He's bringing in other X-men veterans like Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian "Gandalf" McKellen. Apparently, the X-men alumni are just as eager to put X3 behind them as the rest of the universe. It's making for a crowded movie with a ton of star power who will likely be fighting for screen time, bonuses, and Eastern European hookers. As such, Newsarama recently did a nice article compiling everything we know so far about this movie. And after reading it, I've concluded we still don't know jack shit.

Newsarama: What We Know About X-men: Days of Futures Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a little under 18 months away, and director Bryan Singer is announcing casting news via his Twitter account on a regular basis, with what feels like everyone who showed up for a frame in the first few X-Men movies returning for this one.
So let's take a look at what we know so far, along with a little bit of speculation as to what could be next. 


A lot of people.

No, seriously: Days of Future Past is effectively of a direct sequel to 2011's X-Men: First Class, so it's not a shock that much of the main cast from the '60s-set film — Michael Fassbender (Magneto), James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) — are all back. 

But the time traveling nature of Days of Future Past means that a lot of the contemporary X-Men from the original three films — the first two directed by Singer, and the third by Brett Ratner — are also returning. Hugh Jackman will play Wolverine for the seventh time (counting his memorable First Class cameo), and Ian McKellen (modern-day Magneto) and Patrick Stewart (modern-day Xavier) are also on board, according to Singer.

This past weekend, three more X-alumni were added to the already large Days of Future Past cast: Anna Paquin (Rogue), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) and Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde). The latter's inclusion seems especially notable, given the important part that Kitty Pryde played in the "Days of Future Past" comic book story that serves as inspiration to the film.

Though that's already a lot of X-Men, there's no indication that Singer is stopping here. Someone like James Marsden (Cyclops), who's playing a big role in the 30 Rock wrap-up, sure seems like a possibility given his importance to the franchise, but there's been no word yet on his involvement. (And yeah, his character died in The Last Stand, but a) time travel, and b) X-Men characters have been known to come back from the dead once or twice.) 

Halle Berry (Storm) may seem like a long-shot to return for what is likely a small part, but she is one of the many big names in Movie 43, so really anything is possible. Rebecca Romijn — the original movie Mystique — had a quick First Class appearance, so no reason to count her out, either.

There's even been word that Alan Cumming, who appeared in 2003's X2: X-Men United as Nightcrawler but did not return for The Last Stand, is interested in returning.

"Enough time has elapsed that I would like to go back to it," Cumming was quoted by NME via "I haven't gotten the call. Someone told me that Nightcrawler doesn't appear in the story but I don't know, I think they would have called by now."

Also in the "no word either way" category: Kelsey Grammer, The Last Stand's Beast (but with younger Beast confirmed to be playing a role, maybe?); and plenty of First Class cast members like Caleb Landy Jones (Banshee), Lucas Till (Havok) and Zoë Kravitz (Angel Salvadore)

Also, hey: Along with the bonanza of returning characters, it's likely that the movie will introduce a couple of new-to-movie characters, right? Purely speculating here, but given the nature of the story, might noted time-travelers Cable or Bishop be a possibility? Or maybe Rachel Summers — a product of the "Days of Future Past" comic book story?


Inevitably, a few X-Men wont be in Days of Future Past (as unlikely as that may seem right now). It's looking at this point that Famke Janssen, who played Jean Grey in the first three movies, is not planned to return. In a recent interview with Collider promoting Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Janssen said, "If you run into Bryan Singer, just tell him I’ve been sitting by the phone, I’ve been hearing rumors of all these people getting cast; what about me? I’m waiting." 

Yet there have been multiple reports that Janssen will cameo as Jean Grey in this year's The Wolverine, so don't count her out yet. (Yes, she also died in The Last Stand. It's Jean Grey we're talking about.) 

January Jones also doesn't seem optimistic about a Days of Future Past role — quoted by MovieWeb as saying "I don't think Emma [Frost]'s in this one" — news likely to please the many fans less than enthused by her performance in First Class.


Days of Future Past is one of the most famous X-Men stories of all time, originally appearing in 1981's Uncanny X-Men #141-#142. It presents a bleak alternate future where most of the X-Men are dead, and mutants are hunted even worse than they are in the mainstream Marvel timeline. 

It's all because the X-Men failed to stop the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, led by Mystique, from killing the anti-mutant Senator Robert Kelly. That caused all sorts of major problems for homo superior, and prompted the adult "Kate" Pryde to transports her mind back in time into her younger body to warn the X-Men about the consequences of the assassination. The story also served as the introduction of Rachel Summers, the alternate future daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey that remains an important part of current X-Men comics.

In a newly published interview with Empire, Singer made it clear that time travel is an important part of his story, and that he even consulted with James Cameron. 

"You have to create your rules and stick with them," Singer told the UK film magazine. "That's why Terminator and Back To The Future work so well. And there are certain mechanisms in X-Men, certain powers, perceptions and characters, that make this possible."

Singer also made clear that the movie will indeed take cues from the comic, albeit in a way that makes sense for the format.

"It has a lot of aspects of the comic," Singer said. "The actual comic of Days Of Future Past had a whole ton of stuff going on, so it’s like any of these things; you have to distill it. But I think the fans will be pleased that some of the most exciting parts of Days Of Future Past are going to be connected to this movie."

Comic book superstar Mark Millar is a creative consultant on Fox's Marvel movies, and a few months back implied that the movie will have something important to the "Days of Future Past" comic book story but not yet really seen in the movies: Sentinels, the giant mutant-hunting robots long a part of X-Men lore.

“You've got robots, you've got time travel, you've got superheroes," Millar said in an interview with SFX. "It's got everything in one film."

At the time, Matthew Vaughn — the director of First Class — was still scheduled to direct Days of Future Past, so any or all of that may no longer apply. Speaking of Vaughn, back in 2011, he spoke with HitFix about his speculative plans for a First Class sequel. (Keep in mind that First Class took place in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, 13 months before John F. Kennedy was assassinated.)

"I've got some ideas for the opening for the next film," Vaughn said. "I thought it would be fun to open with the Kennedy Assassination, and we reveal that the magic bullet was controlled by Magneto.  That would explain the physics of it, and we see that he's pissed off because Kennedy took all the credit for saving the world and mutants weren't even mentioned."

Though Vaughn is no longer directing the film, now that we know Days of Future Past is the inspiration of the film, could it be that it's not Robert Kelly's assassination that the X-Men are trying to foil, but rather a much less fictional politician?

It's just speculation for now, but at the rate things are going, we'll likely learn a lot more about Days of Future Past between now and its scheduled July 18, 2014 release date. 
So what are we to make of this information? Fuck if I know. I still abide by the drunken logic that the only way X-men movies can ever be made palpable again is if X3 and Wolverine Origins is completely rebooted and denied like the moon landings for the rest of eternity. Days of Futures Past might be a way to actually accomplish that, but doing so might just make too much sense. The X-men movies are notorious for giving the source material a big middle finger. X2 was the only time they actually managed to get away with it partially, but more often than not Fox and Marvel eventually fuck it up. And I'm going to keep assuming they'll do that with Days of Futures Past until proven otherwise. Nuff said!

Friday, January 25, 2013

X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 3 Announcement and PREVIEW!

X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope is officially history. This fanfiction series is now poised to enter a new era. I have no intention of slowing down the story. X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope brought about a lot of major changes to this fanfiction series. Jean Grey is now host to the Phoenix Force. Angel has left the X-men. And something may or may not be very wrong with Professor Charles Xavier. On top of it all, Senator Robert Kelly became President of the United States. His long-standing opposition to mutants and the X-men now promises to influence the world of X-men Supreme like never before. Make no mistake. I have big plans for this fanfiction series! But before those plans can manifest for the future, it's important to strengthen the foundation I laid in the past.

As such, I will be carrying on the tradition I established after the first two volumes of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series and do another Supreme Reflections spin-off. I've already had X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 1 and X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 2. Both entries focused on a number of characters and dug deeper into what made them tick. The characters and their personalities are a big part of why X-men has such vast appeal both for Marvel comics and for comics as a whole. For X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope, I'll be focusing on four more characters. Each will have a chance to paint a clearer picture of who they are.

And the first such reflection will be Gambit. He's a fan favorite who has often had a conflicted history in the pages of Marvel comics. However, his history in X-men Supreme is substantially different. I wanted him to have a bit more balance and I'll be exploring that in the first entry of X-men Supreme Reflections Volume 3. As such, I've prepared a brief preview here on this website and an extended preview of what you can expect from the mind of Gambit.

Talking to myself ain’t healthy. I think it may even be a sign of mental illness. But sometimes you gotta say things out loud to turn thoughts into actions, even if it be as simple as turning it into speech. Thought and action be the cornerstone of dualism and every branch of philosophy that stems from it. By the luck of the draw, that same conflict be the cornerstone of Remy’s messed up life.

Early on, Remy be pulled in both directions. My perè, Jean-Luc, always told me not to think. He didn’t like me asking questions or even making comments. He only wanted me to show him I could do all the thieving techniques I taught him. I did just that, but them questions kept bothering me. That’s where my merè came in. Marianne Lebeau was damn near the complete opposite of Jean-Luc. She did a hell of a lot more with just a few actions. A single hug from her told me a hell of a lot more than Jean-Luc ever could. She actually listened to my questions and encouraged me to ask more. Thing is, she didn’t usually have the answer. All she could do was teach Remy how to find out for myself.

When it came to having adopted parents, Remy’s sure knew how to confuse a kid. Jean-Luc always gave the impression that he adopted Remy because he was different. Remy’s mutation showed itself early by makin’ my eyes look all freaky. It scared off most parents, but not Jean-Luc. There be more function than heart when he makes a decision. For Marianne, it was different. I think she wanted a son that Jean-Luc didn’t brainwash with his thieving philosophies. I don’t think she ever bought into the guild. Her father was one of the highest ranking leaders. She be born into this world and it never really suited her. She sensed it didn’t suit Remy too…not entirely anyways. She always tried to balance out the lessons that Jean-Luc taught me with lessons of her own. I’m glad she did because it kept Remy from being brainwashed by the whole Thieves Guild mystique.

I still paid my dues, learning how to steal and mastering the art of the bow staff from Jean-Luc. I kept learning even as Marianne’s health started failing. The rest of Remy’s family didn’t know it, but she had been abusing pills for years. It was the only way she could cope with being in a world she couldn’t leave. To his credit, Jean-Luc did his best for her. The problem is Jean-Luc’s best ain’t what it should be. He was only willing to go so far, but that wasn’t nearly enough. Pretty soon Marianne’s organs started failing and that was it. She wasn’t gonna make it.

Remy could have broken down and cried like a baby. I sure as hell wanted to when I saw her lying in hospital beds, lookin’ like the life was just being sucked out of her. I be only ten at the time. How could I not? But Marianne wouldn’t let me feel that kind of pain. The lesson she taught me that day was probably the most important lesson Remy’s ever learned.

“Don’t shed any tears for me, Remy. I’m not leaving you behind. I’m just going to be with you in a different way. I’m ready to move on. I want this. But what I want even more is for you to remember…to remember just how special you are.”

Those were Marianne’s last words. I stayed by her bed and watched her slip away from the world of the living. I honored her final wishes and didn’t cry when she passed. The only one who cried, as messed up as it be, was Jean-Luc. It was the only time Remy ever saw him shed any tears. It showed the old man had some heart, but he still lacked spirit. Remy knows this because what he did was clearly different from what he thought. The man was like the rest of the Thieves Guild. He acted without thinking. Remy wasn’t gonna make that same mistake and boy did it cost me.

In addition to starting Supreme Reflections, I'm continuing with other updates to the X-men Supreme website. This includes the bios section. I'm often hesitant to post bios updates too soon because it could mean spoiling certain secrets for these characters. One character, however, has always generated a lot of interest and that's Emma Frost. She made her big debut in X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope. She played a major role in the X-men Supreme Phoenix Saga. And she'll continue to play a huge role in this fanfiction series moving forward. She still has her secrets, but I've managed to craft a bio for her that should help explain who Emma Frost is in the world of X-men Supreme.

Emma Frost Bio

I'm very excited about the future of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. There's a lot I want to do with X-men Supree and I'm still formulating some plans. So stay tuned to this website for more updates on the future of this fanfiction series. That said, it's still very important that readers provide feedback. As this fanfiction series grows, I want to see more feedback from readers. So please take the time to post comments in each issue of X-men Supreme or contact me directly. Either is fine! The world of X-men Supreme is moving forward! I hope everyone is ready to move with it! Take care and best wishes! Excelsior!


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Uncanny X-Force #1 - Repackaged Awesome

It wasn't that long ago that Rick Remender launched a bold new book that emerged from the ashes of X-men: Second Coming. That book was Uncanny X-Force and it was one of those few books for which I reviewed every damn issue on this blog and did it with a hard dick in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other. Very few comics have such distinction. In this day and age where for every Avengers we get a Battleship movie, we've come to not expect consistency from the people we trust to entertain us. Uncanny X-Force was one of those rare gems that kept delivering at a high level. If it were a drug, it would be so potent that the DEA would shoot users on sight out of fear that they would no longer need our corrupt modern clusterfuck of a world to be happy. And when it ended after over two dozen issues, it was sad day for comics.

But at least some of the folks who work at Marvel took basic economics so they understand that ending something won't kill the demand for it. The success of Twinkees, Jimi Hendricks, and Tupac for proof. While Rick Remender has moved onto bigger and bolder projects in Uncanny Avengers, Marvel understands that he left a large audience in withdraw from the end of Uncanny X-Force. So it's perfectly logical that they would relaunch it again as part of Marvel NOW!

This time, it's Stan Humphries at the helm. He's taken on the challenge of relaunching Uncanny X-Force under a different set of circumstances with a different cast of characters. It's not going to be the same team that Remender put together, but there will be some carry-over. Psylocke, who was by far the most fucked up by the events of Uncanny X-Force, was billed a major player. She has to do something for making up for boning Fantomex. But this comic also promises to bring in an array of new X-men, including Storm. Those are awesome ingredients to work with, but even the best ingredients can taste like shit if you don't know how to work a stove. Rick Remender set the bar pretty damn high with his run. Can Stan Humphries measure up?

The relaunched Uncanny X-Force #1 is similar to the first Uncanny X-Force #1 in that it follows up a major event for the X-men. And I’m not just talking about Avengers vs. X-men (thank Odin because I’m sick of having to reference that pile of shit), which left Storm divorced and inclined to get a new haircut (see Wolverine and the X-men #24 for an explanation of that). The end of Remender’s Uncanny X-Force has the team break up in wake of its final battle against the Brotherhood. Those events left Psylocke exceedingly pissed off and unfit to be a teacher at a school for mutant teenagers. After having boned Fantomex, who can blame her? But beyond being jaded, she reflects on how they lost control of X-Force while Storm tries to get a handle on the many lingering scars. It might have just been easier to assume she was having a bad case of PMS.

In the end, however, Wolverine ends up firing her, but not without giving her a way to work off her anger. In a quick flashback, we find that Wolverine is trying to be overly pragmatic for once and distance himself from having been part of a secret kill squad. But he still sees the need for an under-the-radar team of X-men to take on threats that are best not associated with a school. One of those threats involves a new drug that has suddenly emerged. It’s not just your typical zombie-creating bath salts either. This drug is called Tao and it’s not because it involves some mystical eastern bullshit either. It’s an acronym for “together as one” and basically what the drug does is create a hive mind from the gullible masses stupid enough to ingest it. As we’ve seen in other recent comics like Uncanny Avengers #3, a hive mind can do a lot of damage. But as someone who knows a thing or two about exotic substances, I still say it sounds like an ecstasy knock-off. And if given the choice between linking my mind with others or sweating to death while I feel like I've just banged a thousand supermodels, I'll stick with the supermodels. But that's just me.

Thankfully, Wolverine didn’t throw Psylocke into this mission blind, gagged, and drunk (there’s a 50 Shades of Grey joke in there somewhere, but I’ll save that for another review). He included a lead with this mission and Storm, sensing Psylocke is in an incredibly reckless state of mind with no non-amnesiac Angel or chocolate to sooth her, decides to tag along. That lead is actually Puck, the vertically challenged yet oh so lovable member of Alpha Flight that has been MIA from Marvel for too long. His first reaction to seeing Psylocke and Storm is to hit on them. I admit I would probably do the same thing. Once they’ve convinced him his penis is best left kept in his pants, he agrees to help them find the source of the drug. Because who wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to be on a mission with two beautiful women that involves potent mind-altering drugs? It accounts for no fewer than 85 percent of all my wet dreams.

Once they reach the club, however, they found out that the source of this drug isn’t some Pablo Escobar wannabe who saw Scarface one too many times. It’s Spiral, another character who has been MIA for quite a while. We last saw her during Matt Fraction’s Sisterhood arc. I guess she got bored serving Cyclops’s deranged disembodied S&M enthusiasts for a wife and try another venture. I suppose that after you’ve tried to dig up the body of Jean Grey, getting into the drug scene is sort of a relief.

Whatever her reasons, Psylocke makes good use of her new “fuck the world” attitude and attacks Spiral without so much as a “What the fuck are you thinking dealing drugs that aren’t any better than your typical hit of ecstasy?” It may sound brash, but it actually fits nicely with the Psylocke that Rick Remender developed so thoroughly during his run. This is a woman who is unstable and upset. Her throwing herself into a battle with this kind of bravado both makes sense and is sexy as hell. If this doesn’t give you a boner, you had best up the Viagra dosage.

Psylocke’s “fuck the world” attitude is not only in character, but it also provides a tactical advantage as well. It gets the attention of all the drugged out club-hopping douche-bags that would otherwise interfere. It allows Storm and Puck to slip behind them and make their way to the back of the club where Puck believes the drugs are kept. But like the guy who paid for a high class hooker without noticing the oversized Adams Apple on her throat, they were met with a surprise. Instead of a cache of drugs, cash, and imported German porn they found a mal-nourished little girl. At first, she looks like a prisoner. But it’s implied that she may be the source of this hive mind that fucks people up worse than an LSD trip at a Marilyn Manson concert. She proves it as well by having her drugged out friends gang up on Psylocke, Storm, and Puck. It’s not the most earth-shattering surprise, especially for an Uncanny X-Force comic. But it does help create the impression that this is the kind of shit X-Force is supposed to deal with.

Stan Humphries set the stage for a pretty awesome struggle with Psylocke, Storm, and Puck. Then for reasons that I can only attribute to a fire drill or paint fumes, the comic just changes direction completely without even a hint of a logical transition. It goes from two beautiful women and a midget Canadian fighting in a club to the return of freakin’ Bishop.

I know Humphries already announced that Bishop would be coming back prior to this issue, but fuck if his return isn’t more random than a gay clown at a Mormon temple. He doesn’t really say much. He just relishes the fact that he’s back in the past and not shitting in buckets in an apocalyptic future. That’s all he really does. There’s no hint that he’s somehow tied to this whole drug plot. He just returns out of the blue and we don’t know how the fuck it’s connected. I’m assuming that it is or will be in future issues, but I approach comics the same way I approach topless bars. I like to be teased at the very least.

If that transition wasn’t random enough, Humphries then takes the story to Paris where we catch up with Fantomex, or at least parts of him. While I’m glad he’s acknowledging the end of Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run by showing Fantomex as three different beings, the premise is even more fucked up than time travel. Both Fantomex and his female counterpart, Cluster, just finished robbing some French guy of his wine and cheese or something. Then when they’re finished, they fucking kiss. I don’t know if that’s just an obscene display of narcissism or the most elaborate form of masturbation ever, but it makes as much sense as an entire army of clowns at a Mormon temple.

Now I’m willing to overlook some inconsistencies in my comics, but this is another instance where Stan Humphries has to live in the massive shadow cast by Rick Remender. Part of what made Remender’s run so epic was his attention to detail. He found a way to really tie in the events of each issue into the whole series. It fit together so beautifully that if it were a bra, it would belong to Pamela Anderson. Humphries didn’t show that detail with this or the Bishop scene. I get why he’s bringing them into the picture, but I don’t get why he doesn’t at least attempt to connect it with the drug plot. Those are the kinds of details that keep good comics from becoming awesome and successful criminals from becoming prison bitches.

After reading this issue, I don’t think it’s fair to compare it with Rick Remender’s first issue of Uncanny X-Force. This is a different book with a different cast and a very different set of circumstances. And on many levels, it’s not even a new book. The events of this issue closely follow from the end of Rick Remender’s run. That can be good and bad in some ways because it means if you don’t know how the last issue of Uncanny X-Force ended (and the shame of a thousand cases of herpes from a transsexual hooker if you haven’t) then you’ll probably be a bit lost in this issue. Stan Humphies does a decent job of filling in the blanks, but I can see how someone who hasn’t been keeping up being more confused than a stoner watching a Matrix marathon.

But beyond the continuity of Humphries’ first issue, it has a number of other issues. While the story with Psylocke and Storm was well-developed, the other plots with Fantomex and Bishop were a bit all over the place. At times, it felt as though this comic had ADHD and someone swapped its Ritalin for caffeine pills. Don’t get me wrong. It was fun and ominous to see Bishop return from the future and Fantomex engage in what has to be the most elaborate masturbation effort in the history of the universe, but Humphries really didn’t make an effort to tie it into the overall story. I’m assuming that it’s going to come together at some point, but it sure would help if we had even a slight hint at a connection. It would also help if he didn’t use those lame censor bars when Betsy swears like an angry Brit at a soccer game, but I’m not going to go on that rant again. I don’t think my heart could handle it.

These flaws don’t detract from all the things Stan Humphries did right in this book. He clearly established all the necessary elements for this to be an X-Force book. You’ve got a rogue, disgruntled X-man in Psylocke still struggling with the shame of having boned Fantomex and a recently divorced Storm looking to take her frustrations out in ways that go beyond banging Wolverine (again, see Wolverine and the X-men #24). Together, they confront a threat that involves drugs, drug dealers, hive minds, and horrible dancing. That’s the kind of shit that X-Force is better at dealing with. It’s not the same as a creepy kid Apocalypse, but it’s close enough.

This comic is like a fresh mound of blow with a few patches of chalk dust mixed into it. You can’t get around the chalk dust, but it’ll still get you high. Uncanny X-Force #1 was as groundbreaking as it was cock-smashingly awesome when Rick Remender first introduced it. It would be a dick move to ask that Stan Humphries do the same with his Uncanny X-Force #1. He didn’t demonstrate the same talent and mind-blowing brilliance that Remender did his first time around, but he still did a good job of establishing this comic as a worthy successor. I give Stan Humphries’ Uncanny X-Force #1 a 3.5 out of 5. It’s a comic with a pissed off Asian ninja chick, a divorced weather goddess, an undersized Canadian, and a woman with six arms. Throw in a few cameras and you’ve got yourself an awesome porno, but even without the cameras it’s still awesome in its own right. Nuff said!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Uncanny Avengers #3 - Mind Fucking Awesome

I often roll my eyes at the conspiracy theorists that smoke way too much weed and think that the Illuminati, the Freemasons, and the Lizard people secretly run the world. There are just some people that refuse to accept the fact that the world is so boring and inept that the very notion of ruling it is both absurd and an obscene waste of energy. But make no mistake. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would love to rule the world. I'm positive that men like Rupert Murdoch, Glenn Beck, and Pat Roberston masturbate to thoughts of being worshiped like gods while they laugh gleefully as everybody they don't like is horribly tortured in front of them. But they know they'll never have that kind of power in an age where every possible leak that can be condensed into 140 characters will be blared all over the world within seconds.

In the world of Marvel comics, however, ruling the world isn't just possible. It's actually pretty easy if you've got a strong stomach, a massive ego, and way too much free time. This is a world where minds can be controlled, governments can somehow pay for floating helicarriers and killer robots, and the public doesn't go nuts when major cities are attacked and destroyed at least once a month. It's a world where a guy as ruthless as the Red Skull are among the most dangerous villains in the Marvel universe and in the post Avengers vs. X-men world, he's essentially a pit-bull roaming a country of sick kittens.

In the pages of Uncanny Avengers, the Red Skull has already proven how sadistic he's willing to be. He didn't just exhume Charles Xavier's dead body, cut out his brain, and probably jerk off into his rotting flesh for good measure. He actually merged his brain with Xavier's so that he has the powers of the world's most advanced telepath. With that power, he could mind-fuck the likes of Rogue and the Scarlet Witch. With that kind of power he could both make the universe's most awesome lesbian porn and create another M-Day. This way he can conquer the world in a nice, clean, efficient manner. It's basically the kind of plan that Hitler only fantasized about when he wasn't fantasizing about Benito Mussolini going down on him.

It's a twisted, yet dire conflict for this new brand of Avengers that Rick Remender has set up as a bold new partnership for the X-men and Avengers. It has also been billed as one of Marvel's most hyped books. Yet after two issues and some fucking annoying delays, it's been a difficult book to get excited about. The events in this book have barely been mentioned in the other Marvel NOW! books. It started off as a story that takes place directly after the events of Avengers vs. X-men. Now given the microscopic scale of the modern attention spans for most readers, it's starting to come off as one of those books that doesn't fit into anything. Like a pervert at a panty factory, it's just there without contributing much.

But now that Uncanny Avengers #3 is out, the story can finally move forward and maybe...just maybe we can see it tie into the greater Marvel NOW! universe. It would be hard not to acknowledge an event that involves the Red freakin’ Skull coming back from the dead armed with Charles Xavier’s telepathy. At the end of the previous issue, he mind fucked Rogue and the Scarlet Witch just before they were about to puke and/or shit themselves after seeing Charles Xavier’s dead, brainless body. Now he’s got them under his control and he’s using that same power to mind-fuck all of New York City. There’s actually some nice narration from Rick Remender, which is something we didn’t really see in the previous two issues. It seems bland, but it adds more detail into what the Red Skull is doing. It’s basic, essentially using his telepathy to turn average people into minority-hating, blood-thirsty, sociopaths. It’s basically doing what the Vatican, Fox News, and every governor of Texas that ever lived wished they could do.

Seeing weak-minded civilians get caught up in a blood-soaked hate-fest is nothing new. Hell, we see it every time the Lakers win the championship. But Rick Remender actually does something unique here in that he uses that narration I mentioned to describe some of the attackers and the victims. It’s not much. He basically just gives a short blurb about characters like a woman who just recently woke up a mutant and had powers that made her eyes look like she just saw her parents in a bukake video. Yet it’s still enough to make you actually give a damn about them and what’s happening to them. If you don’t, then you’re probably a sociopath and should go back to dissecting small animals in your basement.

Having already had to clean up a mess in New York City with Avalanche’s lobotomy-driven rampage, the Uncanny Avengers are quick to the scene. It also marks the first time Alex Summers is taking charge of the team. While I completely disagree with Captain America’s decision on the basis of him being a raging douche-bag who was demonstrably full of shit in the first issue, he does indicate that he inherited some of his brother’s competence despite not inheriting his ability to soak the panties of female telepaths. He orders the team to protect the civilians, which at this point are just beating the shit out of innocent people with the same candor that they would probably use to tell someone to fuck off on a message board. Yeah, it’s that bad.

But it isn’t just deranged civilians that the Uncanny Avengers have to face. The Red Skull is neither stupid nor lazy enough to think that he can win a battle without at least some team of genetically impure beings that Hitler would probably not approve of. We saw them in the previous issues and they’re basically the kind of shit guys like Zola and Sinister do on a weekend. One of them is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle rip-off named Crooked Emerald. He’s supposed to be the embodiment of human will without incurring a lawsuit from DC’s Green Lantern. He’s tasked with taking on Thor, who would have way too easy a time brushing off pissed off civilians. He also has a pretty easy time with this asshole, making me think that turtles that aren’t ninjas have little to offer.

Even with the Red Skull’s posse of freaks being easy fodder, this doesn’t change that other unpleasant detail about the Red Skull possessing Xavier-level telepathy. And last I checked, Captain America and Havok weren’t smart enough to recruit a psychic. Again, I bet Havok really wishes he inherited his brother’s knack for seducing telepaths. It starts to effect Captain America, who already has a reason to hate mutants after Avengers vs. X-men where he damn well knows that he fucked up more than Cyclops and got away with it. The Red Skull taps into that burning inclination to take his frustrations out on the closest mutant, but being Captain America he manages to resist because it just wouldn’t be good PR if a symbol of America was seen killing an innocent civilian without the aid of drone strikes.

Yet even though he doesn’t join in the riot, he clearly is affected by the Red Skull’s influence because he yells at Havok for being a shitty leader. He’s not entirely wrong. Just trying to contain the civilians rather than fighting the source that’s fucking with them is like suing the restaurant that made the scalding hot coffee and not the asshole that dropped it on you. It’s actually a really good scene because it shows that Captain America, for all his freedom-loving bravado, is still an over-privileged white guy who is inclined to blame minorities for shit that goes wrong. I guess that would make him a more honest Captain America, simply because it makes him more of a douche. I don’t mean to sound anti-American, but a country can be guilty of one too many dick moves.

Eventually, the team does shift their focus to the source of the shit storm. After Wolverine roughs up one of the Red Skull’s freakshows, he meets up with Rogue and the Scarlet Witch, who also managed to free themselves from his control. They inform him that the Red Skull is doing this with the brain of Charles Xavier, which he ripped out by digging his body up shortly after Wolverine gave a heart-felt eulogy. Wolverine is usually a pretty easy guy to piss off. But short of stealing his beer and cutting up Jean Grey with a meat cleaver, I can’t think of too many ways to piss him off more.

But the Red Skull is ready for Wolverine’s hissy fit in a way Nazi’s probably wish they were before they invaded the Soviet Union. It started when one of the Red Skull’s Nazi-approved freaks mind-fucked Thor into thinking his father, Odin, was standing in front of him. Then the Red Skull did the rest, using Xavier’s telepathy to appeal to the blond haired, blue-eyed Aryan side of Thor. That’s another detail that is often overlooked. Thor, for all his godly bravado, is still the kind of guy that Nazis would love to have on their side. And thanks to the Red Skull’s influence, he does join them.

And he does so just in time to confront a freshly pissed off Wolverine. First, the Red Skull has another one of his Nazi-approved freaks negate his powers. Then Thor does the rest with his hammer, giving Wolverine the kind of headache you could only get from going 12 rounds with a crystal meth addicted Mike Tysons. It marks an ominous end for the issue and one which Remender goes out of his way to state the Red Skull has a hell of a boner. It’s another one of those benefits to the narration that adds depth to the issue. The Red Skull may be a pissed off sociopath, but when he’s gleefully mind-fucking his enemies into brutalizing one another he’s one happy motherfucker.

I often look at heavily hyped comic books in the same way I look at the New York Yankees. They’re easy to hate because they get all the attention, sales, and glory. If they were actual people, they would be those rich douche-bag trust fund kids who never had to work to earn the caviar enema they get every morning. But there are times when, like the New York Yankees, those books earn the respect and praise they get. Sometimes it starts off rocky, but when it comes together it can either win you a World Series or make a damn good comic.

Uncanny Avengers #3 follows a style and theme that wasn’t that prominent in the first two issues. Maybe it was just a result of the bullshit delays, but it was a pretty striking shift. It went from merely following a random assortment of high-profile characters as they pieced together a new team with scotch tape and spit to putting that team in a position to really kick ass against a high-profile threat with a high-profile arsenal. While the high-profile aspect of this book has sometimes worked against it, this issue made it work in all the right ways by following each character and adding depth to their own personal conflicts.

But beyond the characters, Rick Remender showed that attention to detail that made his Uncanny X-Force run so epic. He actually highlighted some of the lesser characters, who in most comics would be akin to the poor saps in Star Trek that wore red uniforms and either ended up dead or overlooked. By giving a personal touch to each character on both sides, it heightens the emotion of the book. It isn’t just another battle between the Red Skull and the Avengers. It’s a personal struggle both for them and the people they’re trying to save. It’s basically the shit you never see in a Michael Bay movie, the humanity behind the explosions if you will.

The only real issues I could possibly have with this comic are the delays that always make me want to inject ammonia in my rectum and the sudden shift in style. I really do like the narrations that Remender used. It’s the kind of shit that really isn’t utilized by a lot of writers, who just like to have the characters speak, swear, and screw either vocally or with thought bubbles. Aside from Chris Claremont, few writers actually make an effort to make this shit work. So why the fuck wasn’t it greater part of the previous issues? It makes this issue seem inconsistent in the greater context of the story and even if the delays lasted longer than your attention span, it was still a major “Where the fuck was this?” moment.

Uncanny Avengers is a series that I had high hopes for and for the first two issues, it hasn’t really lived up to those hopes. I get that it’s hard for even the best steroid-addled baseball player to hit home runs every time, but it’s his own damn fault if he boasts that he can. Marvel boasted that Uncanny Avengers would be a big fucking deal in the post-Avengers vs. X-men world. This issue finally makes me feel as though they weren’t full of shit or shooting too many steroids when they said that. I give Uncanny Avengers #3 a 4.5 out of 5. Now if only Rick Remender and John Cassaday could keep this up by releasing this book on time more often, it would be supremely awesome. I don’t mean to sound needy, but when your patience is only as great as your supply of weed you can’t help it. And take it from a guy who once bought crushed maggots and thought it was pot. Good shit is worth waiting for. Nuff said!

Friday, January 18, 2013

X-men Supreme Issue #71 - Election Day is LIVE And New Commission!

Ashes to ashes, from birth to death, another era in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series is coming to an end while another is poised for rebirth! I know that's overly dramatic, but I can't help it! X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope has finally reached its end. It's been the longest installment of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series to date. It has covered some amazing stories that include aliens, assassination plots, and cosmic forces. Numerous characters have undergone a great deal of growth. Jean Grey became the host of the Phoenix Force. Angel reconnected with his father and family company. Wolverine uncovered more dark secrets about his past. And Professor Charles Xavier found a new ally (and then some) in Lilandra Neramani. There were so many stories to tell, but the tangled web of the X-men Supreme fanfiction universe must begin anew at some point. And that process starts by ending X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope.

Since the beginning of Volume 3: Ashes of Hope, the world of X-men Supreme has been embroiled in a heated presidential election where Senator Robert Kelly, who has a long history of opposing mutants, is vying for the office of President of the United States. Professor Xavier and the X-men have opposed him at times and saved him at others. Now the election is upon them and the stage is set for a bold new era in the world of X-men Supreme. But the previous arc, Kings and Tyrants, complicated the ensuing conflict when Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants abducted Senator Kelly and his family in an attempt to turn them into mutants. The X-men stopped this plan, but only partially. Senator Kelly's son ended up becoming a mutant. How will this impact the anti-mutant agenda he's been championing since X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution? That's the big story that will continue to evolve in X-men Supreme. And that story begins with the end of X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope!

Issue 71: Election Day

Of all the work I've done on the X-men Supreme fanfiction series thus far, some of the most enjoyable moments came while writing Volume 3: Ashes of Hope. The biggest highlight for me was being able to write the X-men Supreme Phoenix Saga. I can't begin to describe how fulfilling it was, retelling the most famous story in the history of X-men if not the whole Marvel universe. It was a big moment for this fanfiction series that has grown bigger than I ever could have imagined. And it will keep growing! Moving forward, the X-men Supreme fanfiction series will continue to undergo great changes. And I look forward to exploring those changes.

And to add a little extra bonus to this monumental milestone for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, I also have a fresh commission from my old friend, Brian Brinlee. Once again, he's been generous enough to use his talents to bring another scene from X-men Supreme to life. This time he takes a moment from Issue 31: Memory Musings. It was a landmark issue that featured flashbacks, drama, and dinsaurs. Where else besides X-men could you get something like that? As always, I sincerely thank Mr. Brinlee for his contrubtions. For this and other commissions, please check out the panels section in the pics area.

X-men Supreme Official Panels

This era of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series is now over, but the saga and this site will continue. Now that X-men Supreme Volume 3: Ashes of Hope is complete, I can do a few updates I've been meaning to do, such as the bios. I also have a few new specials planned before the next volume of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series can begin. I can't go into too many details right now, but stay tuned for updates! I'll be revealing them as they take shape. And as always, I urge everyone here to continue providing feedback to the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. I can't tell you how important it is. There have been 71 issues and three volumes worth of story. I want to keep making it more awesome, so please post your comments in each issue or contact me directly so I know I'm doing something right or wrong! As always, I sincerely thank all those who have supported me in this bold endeavor. I hope that support continues as the X-men Supreme fanfiction series moves forward. Until next time, this is another era of X-men Supreme ending so take care and best wishes until the next era begins! Excelsior!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Savage Wolverine #1 - Jungle Loving Awesome

What is it about the untamed wild that gives some people huge boners? I know people who will wake up at four in the morning, put on loin cloths, grab a hunting knife, and run into the woods giggling like ten-year-old girl that just stole her older sister's tampon. They say it's liberating, being able to escape from civilization and enjoy a simpler existence. Then they have to take a shit and they run back to the nearest working toilet as fast as humanly possible. So while they'll rave on and on about the wonders of nature, when it comes to giving up the ability to shit in a toilet and not have to wipe their ass with dry leaves that's a deal-breaker.

I'll go on record as saying the hippies, the environmentalists, and Ted Kazinsky are full of shit. Civilization is awesome. I like sitting in an air-conditioned room eating food I didn't have to kill with a bow and arrow and shitting in a toilet. I would much rather saw my legs off and dive head-first into a pool of dog piss than go camping in the wilderness. And anybody who wants to bitch about how civilization has dehumanized us needs to either start shitting on trees or shut the fuck up.

That said, some people actually thrive in the wild. These are the kind of people who could be dropped bare ass naked in the middle of the African Serengeti and three weeks later, he's made every lion his personal bitch. You don't come across too many people like that these days, but in comics these guys aren't just more common. They embody that wild style of wild nature that gets us in touch with our own inner shit-throwing primate.

Of all the characters who would thrive in a jungle and treat it as a weekend in Vegas, Wolverine is the ultimate wild man. He doesn't just survive in the wild. He makes it his personal mission to make every single predator's balls shrivel off and make every potential prey shit themselves in terror. But lately, he hasn't been able to get in touch with his wild side. He's been too busy blowing the Avengers, screwing over the X-men in Avengers vs. X-men, and trying to fight the urge fuck a teenage Jean Grey. But as part of the Marvel NOW! relaunch, Marvel is attempting to get Wolverine back to his roots before he was the unofficial man-whore of comics. As part of a new series by Frank Cho, the Savage Wolverine promises to ditch the whole "I want to fuck the redhead" or "I want to gut Cyclops" plot and puts him back in his element. For a guy who already looks like he took a bath in Rogain every day since he was two years old, it's the perfect change of pace.

The tone is set in Savage Wolverine #1 with an all-too familiar scenario. Some dipshit, civilization-loving assholes think they can fly their fancy, high-tech gadgets into the Savage Land and not have something go horribly wrong. That’s like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day while working in a Chinese coal mine and expecting not to get lung cancer. In this case it’s a couple of SHIELD agents investigating an island with an insanely creepy mountain-sized sculpture. They’re tracking some mysterious energy that they’re hoping to investigate. They’ve also got Shanna the She-Devil with them, who is acting as a guide while also saving them the need to bring porn on the mission. But seriously, when has approaching an islands with a creepy face carved into a mountain ever led to anything other than disaster? For that reason, it’s hard to feel bad for the SHIELD agents when their aircraft starts going down. Maybe they just expect too much from dangerous islands that don’t have giant signs that tell them to stay the fuck away.

Enter our old friend Wolverine. Unlike the dipshit SHIELD agents who thought they could bang karma and get away with it, he wasn’t stupid enough to fly a high tech jet into the Savage Land and expect it not to crash. Instead, he just wakes up in the middle of the Savage Land without any memory of how he got there. He was either tricked or he went on one hell of a bender, or maybe a little of both.

But this apparently happens eight months after the SHIELD agents disappeared. There’s really no lead-in as to how he ended up here and maybe that’s for the better because it means Wolverine can get right to channeling his inner animal. That becomes somewhat necessary because he’s immediately attacked by Jurassic Park style raptors when he wakes up. In the Savage Land, that’s about as common as getting beat up in a mosh pit at a Metallica concert.

In addition to killer raptors, it’s also a guarantee that a visit to the Savage Land will also land you in the crosshairs of some hostile Neanderthal types with a lot of pent up aggression and no internet access to harass total strangers on message boards. But Wolverine decides to get proactive for once and hunts down a group that happens to be carrying one of the wounded SHIELD agents, most likely for human sacrifice or for a Hannibal Lecture style feast. Wolverine opts to not ask politely and proceeds with cutting them up like strips of bacon at a Five Guys. It’s brutal. It’s bloody. It’s violent. It’s just what you would expect from a book with the word “savage” in the title, no more no less. There’s some nice narration in here as well that helps make it a little less bland, but it really doesn’t add much to the scene.

After Wolverine completes his casual slaughter, he finds out from the dying SHIELD agent the location of their crashed ship. He gives the agent a proper burial so he doesn’t have to go through the indignity of being shit out by a T-Rex and then makes his way to the crashed ship where he finds a few various notes and a clear sign that these SHIELD agents were too incompetent to guards against an army of cavemen. But while he’s trying to figure out why SHIELD would want to visit a place where stepping in dinosaur shit is a real concern, he’s confronted by the one person who wasn’t stupid enough to get roughed up by cavemen and that person has an awesome rack.

It’s Shanna the She-Devil and she has to first stab Wolverine with a spear before she recognizes him. I’m guessing that’s not the worst thing a woman has ever done to him so it’s probably an easy thing to forget, especially when she’s wearing a loin-cloth bikini. I try not to take too much pleasure in Wolverine getting horribly wounded, but given what a massive douche he’s been since Avengers vs. X-men this scene still put a smile on my face.

Once the awkwardness of having stabbed Wolverine wears off, Shanna explains why a couple of SHIELD agents were stupid enough to visit the Savage Land. It’s actually exceedingly predictable, almost to the point where King Kong could probably sue. They suspected there was some ancient technology on the island and when they got to close, they encountered a disruption field that caused their ship to crash. After trying to be Bear Gylles for a while, they attempted to sail away only to get attacked by sea monsters. So it’s basically your standard vacation package to the Savage Land. Both SHIELD agents ended up captured, but they still suspected that there was some ancient technology in the mountain that they could use. They were planning to reach that technology with a very low-tech solution that involved blowing shit up.

It’s a story we’ve seen countless times before and parodied even more. A group of civilized people have their civilized gizmos fail them and they end up in a very uncivilized part of the world. Sometimes they end up being sacrificed or eaten. Sometimes they train monkeys to be butlers. Sometimes they make it into a porno. It’s a very basic and very clichéd plot. While it fits nicely with a Wolverine story, nobody with a handful of brain cells will find it too groundbreaking.

The premise may be basic, but it still involves blowing shit up so that means it has both the promise of explosions and more pictures of Shanna’s rack. So there’s still plenty of reason to follow this story. Wolverine and Shanna quickly work out a plan that involves finishing what the SHIELD agents started, minus the part where they got killed by cavemen. They intend to blow up the base of the mountain and use the ancient technology to call for help. However, this is still the Savage Land. That means there are a long list of creatures looking to maim them. That includes a hoard of Pterodactyls. Before they can even entertain thoughts of blowing shit up, they have to fight them off in another visually stunning yet predictable scene of jungle slaughter.

Part of that predictability involves Shanna demonstrating the toughness of a hardened jungle woman with PMS. She beats Wolverine to the punch in terms of recklessly attacking the Pterodactyl hoard. It forces Wolverine to shove her out of the downed aircraft, while probably copping a feel in the process (no straight man would blame him). Shanna doesn’t like this because it leaves them out in the open and vulnerable. And once again, a woman is shown to be right while the man is shown to be stupid because one of the Pterodactyl’s grabs Wolverine and flies him up high in the air before dropping him. Perhaps it’s another lesson for Wolverine in how to better deal with women, aside from boning them and hitting on the ones that are married. But again, it’s rather predictable. The comic ends with the prospect of him hitting the ground head first in a way that would turn most people into a blood stain on a T-Rex’s foot. But he’s Wolverine. You know he’s going to survive. So don’t expect to be biting your nails off wondering how this shit is going to play out.

I didn’t originally intend to do a review of Savage Wolverine when I first heard about it. Then after a few drinks and a few bong hits, it finally dawned on me. I said to myself, “You know what? This is just what Marvel comics needs! A book where Wolverine isn’t being a total dick cheese to Cyclops or playing the part of an Avengers groupie! Now where the fuck can I get more of this pot? It’s awesome!” After reading the first issue, I can say with or without a bong hit that this comic succeeded in delivering a welcome change-of-pace for Wolverine. But is it compelling enough to make a whole series out of? That’s something that’s difficult to answer even with a bong hit.

I enjoyed the issue. But Frank Cho really didn’t bring anything new to the table. The premise of the story has been overdone more than Joan Rivers’s face. Someone tries to explore the Savage Land, they crash land, and they get roughed up by a group of jungle savages that still shit in pots. That shit hasn’t just been done in Marvel comics before. This is shit that’s been done in every King Kong knock-off for decades. So if you’ve seen even some of those, including all the porn parodies, you won’t be surprised at all by what you see in this comic.

It was still awesome in that we get to see Wolverine going back to basics, surviving on his animal instincts and crossing paths with a hot jungle chick. The team-up between Wolverine and Shanna is definitely the most compelling aspect of this comic. It’s a team-up that makes perfect sense. She’s a tough, hard-nosed woman who is more at home in the jungle than Charlie Sheen at a Columbian whore house. Wolverine is an equally tough, ill-tempered brute who gets along better with angry animals trying to kill him than his own fellow X-men at times. Fuck, this is the perfect theme for either a porno or a new reality show on Bravo.

This first issue may have been basic and predictable, but it successfully established the conflict and set up the partnership between Wolverine and Shanna. Now it’s not yet clear if that partnership will include the exchange of a few bodily fluids down the line, but it is clear that there’s a story to be told here. Savage Wolverine #1 may not have a novel concept, but Frank Cho still makes it entertaining enough to be enjoyable. I give Savage Wolverine #1 a 3 out of 5. This comic didn’t change my opinion on camping or the whole back-to-the-wild bullshit that hippies love to whine about. Maybe I would find it more tenable if a beautiful woman like Shanna tagged along, but I know it would still go downhill the moment we ran out of toilet paper. So I’ll be leaving the survivalist shit to Wolverine and the idiots preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Nuff said!