Saturday, May 30, 2015

War and Peace: A Short (and Sweet) Superman/Wonder Woman Fic

We all need a little pure, unadulterated romance in our lives. Sometimes we just want to give the finger to these long, complex love affairs and embrace the kind of fluffy love story that makes Twilight fans squee uncontrollably. Now I know I make a lot of jokes about Twilight, but there's no denying its success or its appeal. There is a part of us that longs for that pure, fluffy romance that is both unattainable and wholly unrealistic. But being unrealistic and unattainable never stopped Superman and Wonder Woman.

That's exactly why I decided to use some of my precious little vacation time recently to pen a quick one-shot between DC's resident power couple. It's not some epic story full of twists and turns. It's not some piece of elaborate, erotic smut. It's just a simple, basic love story between Superman and Wonder Woman. Nothing more. Nothing less. There's plenty of the other stuff to go around.

I'm still hard at work on my other Superman/Wonder Woman story, Strangers In Paradise. The plot of that story is going to be decidedly less fluffy, especially over the course of the next few chapters. But I know there are Superman/Wonder Woman fans that just need a little romance fix as the summer finally sets in. Well, consider this a nice cold shot of romance to get just the right buzz. There's still plenty more to come and unlike alcohol, there's no risk of hangovers. Nuff said!

Friday, May 29, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue 122: Dark Legacy Part 2 PREVIEW!

It’s a dangerous time in X-men Supreme. A tragedy of massive proportions is beginning to unfold. Sinister has won. He outsmarted the X-men, releasing his Legacy Virus onto an unsuspecting world. This act and the consequences from it will change the X-men Supreme fanfiction series in a profound way. It’s a change that will be emotional, dramatic, and even tragic. Some of the X-men’s most defining moments have been built around tragedy and atrocity. This fateful event will do both for X-men Supreme.

This isn’t the first time the X-men have lost against one of their enemies. It’s easy to forget that for all their triumphs, the X-men lost their fight against the Brotherhood of Mutants in their first encounter back in X-men Supreme Volume 1: Mutant Revolution. The X-men have always endured more upheaval in defeat than they have in victory. Defeat has shaped the course of their struggle, both in the comics and in X-men Supreme. It was defeat that led to Jean Grey’s death in the comics during the original Phoenix Saga. It was defeat at the hands of the Black Queen that put Amanda Sefton in a coma in X-men Supreme. In every case, the X-men have been able to adapt and keep fighting. This case, however, is different.

The Legacy Virus won’t just affect the X-men or mutants in general. Sinister created this virus to affect everyone. After losing Selene in Civilization No Longer Lost, he’s abandoned any and all sense of subtlety and tact. He no longer cares who gets hurt in his endless quest to create the ultimate mutation. It’s something that isn’t often explored in the comics. The X-men face many villains who will attack and hurt mutants. However, the impact is rarely felt by humanity as a whole. Humans and mutants inhabit the same planet. That’s why the X-men are so dedicated to protecting it. This time, humans and mutants alike will share in the devastation.

It has happened all throughout history. Plague and tragedy don’t care if someone is a minority. They hurt and scar people all the same. I always felt the way the Legacy Virus was used in the X-men comics was somewhat incomplete. It did lead to tragedy and loss, namely with the death of Colossus. But it never went beyond that. It never felt like a real plague. In X-men Supreme, the Legacy Virus is an entirely different menace. For once, humans and mutants are going to share in the horror equally. And it’ll still be up to the X-men to stop it. The upheaval will continue as the Dark Legacy arc unfolds. As always, I’ve prepared an extended preview of just how big this upheaval is going to be for the world of X-men Supreme.

The data was coming. The biggest and boldest step in Sinister’s research had begun. The X-men, the MSA, and even his own Marauders played their part perfectly. It was a pathetic yet predictable outcome. It marked the beginning of a profound, albeit messy process.

Sitting in the center of his device, Sinister activated a hologram depicting the entire world. From it, the silvery mist that had been unleashed from Mount Rainier was spreading fast. Within hours, the prevailing winds would carry it to every country on every continent. There wasn’t a soul that could hide from it. His creation would find its targets and extract the information he needed. Such a process had some rather gruesome side-effects, but that didn’t bother him in the slightest. After losing Selene, he was through being subtle.

“My legacy begins,” he proclaimed, “I can feel it spreading. Every bit of genetic information…all linking directly to me. The legacy virus will finish what we began, Selene. For you, my love, I will finish what we started. And I’ll make sure the world knows my sorrow.”

It was going to happen quickly. Within days, the entire global population would be affected. Within a week, the data would come pouring in. Within two weeks, he would have everything. Those fortunate enough to still be alive would see the truth behind the destruction.

“Uncle Essex! We need to talk,” yelled Madelyn Pryor as she and Vulcan entered his lab.

“My dear godson and goddaughter,” said Sinister, “I’m glad to see you’ve returned safely.”

“Forget safe! We passed by Mystique on our way in. We’ve pieced together the secrets you’ve been keeping from us,” said Vulcan angrily.

Sinister didn’t flinch at the harsh tone of his godchildren. He imagined the scene on Mount Rainier was quite messy. The other Marauders weren’t with them. He didn’t expect them to be. They weren’t immune to what he had just done. Nobody was immune.

Gabriel and Madelyn had seen their godfather cross many lines. They had always subscribed to using brutal methods to get necessary results. However, this was beyond brutal. After what they saw with Mystique, they saw a new level of horror in their godfather.

“This Legacy Project…it’s not just about collecting genetic information. It’s about unleashing a plague!” said Vulcan.

“You said that techno-organic substance was just a primer to scan DNA,” added Madelyn, “You never said anything about it being infectious!”

“If I had, would you have refused to go along with it?” asked Sinister in a cold tone.

“I would have at least asked for an explanation!” said Vulcan, grabbing his Uncle’s shoulders and turning him around, “We’re talking more death than anything Selene attempted in Nova Roma. Why are you doing this? What do you expect to gain?”

Sinister was not put off by his godson’s tone. He saw more confusion in his eyes than rage. It was understandable. This was beyond anything he and Madelyn had ever been a part of. Being their godfather, they both deserved a lesson in truth.

“When you lose someone you love, the world becomes a much darker place,” began Sinister, “Our emotions and the ties they create distract us from the harsh reality of this world. You both have felt such loss. You’ve lashed out against that harsh reality in your own way. Now I’m doing it my way.”

“I don’t see why your way requires a global plague,” spat Madelyn.

“It wasn’t my original plan, but plans change. Losing Selene changed the stakes. The techno-organic material I developed had always been part of the equation. With it, I was going to extract the necessary information from a select few. It was to be controlled, quiet, and clean. Much of this operation was predicated on Nova Roma being our base. When that part of the plan fell through, I had to revise it. Now I can only obtain the necessary information through more elaborate measures.”

Sinister directed their attention to the holographic map hovering above them. He enlarged it to show how the mist from Mount Rainier was spreading. The winds and the high altitude allowed it to span out in all directions. It wouldn’t be long before the whole world was affected.

“Without the resources of Nova Roma, getting the necessary information is akin to finding multiple needles in multiple haystacks on every corner of the world. So if I’m to get this information within a reasonable time frame, I need to buy the whole haystack rather than waste time sifting through it.”

“So you’re infecting the whole world this virus,” surmised Vulcan, still outraged.

“It’s not a virus. Its techno-organic nature makes it so much more,” said Sinister as he gazed up at the map, “I used my own unique biology as a base. This material can enter any being, human or mutant, and sift through their DNA as one would sift through a filing cabinet. Once they have the information, it is psionically beamed back to me and integrated into this machine.”

“And a side-effect of this process is death?” said Madelyn dryly.

“Only for those with weak genetic,” said Sinister coldly, “Since I didn’t have the resources on Nova Roma to refine this material, I’m left with this crude version. It causes significant damage during the process. Believe me, it was not my first choice. However, it is now my only choice at this point. When the X-men took Selene from us, they made this necessary.”

“How is it necessary?” said a bewildered Gabriel, “This can’t be the only way.”

“It isn’t, but it is the only way that will result in the fewest needless deaths.”

Now Madelyn and Gabriel were really confused. Losing Selene had affected their uncle in ways they never imagined. Beneath that inhuman exterior, there was a broken man who had just lost a loved one. Somehow, this loss left him twisted. At the same time, he sounded completely serious in justifying his actions.

“I understand your outrage,” he continued, “All I ask is that you trust that what I’m doing is best for this world. I didn’t realize what a desolate place it was until I lost Selene. I see now that regardless of what I do, plagues of one kind or another will consume this planet. Death and suffering will continue as long as the people of this world keep living a lie.”

“Is that all you’re doing, Uncle? Just speeding up the inevitable?” said Madelyn, “If so that’s hardly a reason!”

“Come now, dear goddaughter. I may not look it, but I’m not a monster. These deaths will not be without purpose,” Sinister assured them as he turned away from the map, “They will all lead to something greater…something that’s worth dying for.”

“And what might that something be?” asked Gabriel skeptically.

Sinister grinned, an expression he hadn’t shown since Selene had died. When Gabriel and Madelyn saw what he was doing, they would see the truth behind all the death. It was a truth that had been decades in the making and one reserved for those who could truly appreciate it.

“Follow me and I’ll show you,” said Sinister as he led them into another area in his lab, “Whether you accept it or not is inconsequential at this point. You’ll soon learn like so many others that once you confront the truth, there’s no going back.”

Make no mistake. This arc will create more than upheaval. In any great tragedy, there is always great loss. The X-men have already endured losses, such as the death of Kevin McTaggart in the Proteus arc. But the losses in this arc will be much greater. Those losses will change the course of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series if it continues. I know it’s risky when the X-men endure such losses, but it helps give emotional weight to their story in both the comics and in this fanfiction series. For that reason, it’s very important I continue to receive feedback for X-men Supreme. This arc may incur some upsetting developments for fans. I want to hear from those fans and every fan. So please take the time to review or send me your comments. Either contact me directly or post your feedback directly in the issue. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Inferno #1

There was once a time when Madelyne Pryor was a sympathetic character and not just the first in a long line of examples as to why clones suck. That time ended around the same time hair metal bands started going out of style. It's no secret that evil clones are Marvel's equivalent of infected warts. But at the very least, Madelyne Pryor can be seen as an attractive mole of sorts. Yes, she's an evil clone. Yes, she's a character that became shitty due entirely to circumstances. But fuck if she doesn't make evil look sexy.

It's been a long time since Madelyne Pryor got to do anything other than give the anti-Cyclops crowd an easy reference point to justify their bitching. It's been even longer since she was anything other than a C-list X-men villain. But thanks to Secret Wars, we have a chance to revisit certain periods in Marvel's history where the Goblin Queen was menacing in a way that didn't just involve awkward boners. Inferno #1 introduces a section of Battleworld where Madelyne Pryor didn't become Chris Claremont's most asinine creation. It's not the kind of section where anyone would want to go on a vacation, but it gives her a chance to be part of a meaningful story. It also gives her a chance to look sexy in a thong again and Odin knows we can never pass up an opportunity like that.

Like some of the other Secret Wars tie-ins, this issue tells a story that anyone who was alive in the late 80s or isn't too lazy to consult Wikipedia has seen before. Inferno's climactic battle had the X-men and X-Factor team up to take down the Goblin Queen and save Colossus' sister from becoming a demon seed and not the kind that underpaid kindergarten teachers whine about. It was a passionate battle that led to one of the X-men's most bittersweet victories.

However, the big difference here is that they didn't win. The demons, going against every Exorcist knock-off ever made, won the day. And instead of fighting human bigotry, the X-men have to fight demons. Given the extent of human bigotry, I can't say it's a hard transition. Now they have to fight a war in a domain of Battleworld, making yearly pushes to save Magik and stop the onslaught.

But the turning point in the battle came with a moment that never would've made it past the censors in the late 80s. Remember, this was a period where Madonna videos were seen as being too sexual. In one of the X-men's numerous failed assaults, Cyclops gets clawed in the back in a way that Wolverine only dreams of. It's a devastating wound and one that sends Jean Grey's level of pissed off to I'm-going-to-fuck-you-up-on-a-cosmic-scale type level. It effectively ends the fight in a draw, but it establishes a much darker turn for this world.

It's hardly the type of upbeat turn that would fit into the latter Reagan years, but it works on many levels. These are demons the X-men are dealing with. Their struggle against the Goblin Queen was always going to have some collateral damage. This just went a bit further, but not so far that it could become an Alan Moore novel. It just takes the darkest hour of Inferno and sends it in a different direction. Those who like seeing Cyclops get wounded will like it. Those who would rather see the X-men fight killer robots might not.

While Cyclops' injury provides the first big "Oh fuck!" moment, it isn't the one with the most impact. Colossus, in an effort to make Cyclops and Jean Grey's sacrifice meaningful, manages to make it to his sister. It starts off as an emotional reunion and ends with the joys of a root canal and a lobotomy. Colossus finds out the hard way that his sister is already lost. She basically reveals that she's become fond of dry-humping the devil and is now Darkchild, ruler of Inferno. She even fucks his arm up to reinforce her point. Most siblings are content to make their point with a wedgie or a wet willie. As the Darkchild, Magik is willing to go the extra mile.

Again, it's pretty damn dark, but it's very firm in establishing the turning point for this world. It's specific, detailing the moments in which this version of Inferno goes to shit. There's little ambiguity, something that Battleworld has had a bit too much of in some respects. Even if it is dark, it's refreshing in how it establishes this cozy little hellhole in the Battleworld landscape. It also gives it some emotional weight with Colossus and Cyclops. Unless someone is on heavy anti-depressants or recently shorted the stock of the companies that sell them, it has plenty of appeal.

Flash forward a year and the impact of this new world is explored. It's all centered around Colossus, who isn't exactly in a healthy state of mind after failing to save his sister. However, that didn't stop him from hooking up with Domino so I'd say he found a very healthy way to cope. It sure beats paying for a therapist or going on multiple drinking binges. Losing his sister has not kept him from enjoying the benefits of a hot girlfriend, nor should it. A hot girlfriend is a great medication and it can be taken with alcohol. Perhaps Dennis Hopeless and Marvel should patent that treatment. He'd be rich enough to retire tomorrow.

Beyond having a hot girlfriend to help him cope, we also see that Colossus' daily routine revolves around leading what's left of the X-men in a constant battle against the forces of Inferno. It's basically Lord of the Rings with demons and no goofy-looking hobbits. They fight demons, protect the innocent, and then slam back a few beers before going to bed. Overall, it's not a terrible way to live in the Marvel universe. It still beats living in Ultimate Marvel by a long shot.

Beyond Colossus' day-to-day coping, we get additional insight into how this world works. It may be a strange feeling for some, seeing so much effort put into fleshing out the details of a world. I was so shocked I actually had to read this book sober a few times to make sure I wasn't overdosing. I'm happy to say for the sake of my brain cells that I wasn't tripping. This book actually does put some effort into developing this world. And it's a world that deals with a fucked up set a problems by relying on a fucked up set of solutions.

A big part of that solution involves mixing both magic and technology to fight demons. That's a lot like creationists and scientists coming together to fight an invasion of alien demons. It's an odd partnership, but one that's forced by necessity. With help from familiar names like Dr. Strange and Hank McCoy, the X-men make sure they're equipped with the kind of demon-fighting material that the Vatican would drool over. It makes sense in a twisted sort of way and helps create a novel dynamic for this world, so much so that it doesn't quite feel like X-men in some respects. But don't worry. Other dynamics ensure this book is distinctly an X-book.

Remember that claw to the back that made anti-Cyclops fans squeal like a big in a mud factory? Well they'll have to put their dicks away because it didn't kill him. It just relegated him to a wheelchair so that he's now basically the Professor Xavier of the X-men. He's still a leader, just not one who can go into the field and hook up with hot telepaths. And he still clashes with his teammates, especially Colossus. It makes for a fairly tense scene when Cyclops discourages him from trying to rescue his sister again. After losing his legs, I think he's right to be a little reluctant. But Colossus, being the kind of loyal sibling that is never shown on a sitcom, tells him to fuck off. He's going to save his sister even if it means going through his psychotic ex-wife. That alone should make him the greatest big brother in the history of any universe.

Despite Cyclops' clear and understandable warnings, Colossus leads the team right into the anus of the demon hordes. It makes for another round of action that's basically the same we saw in the beginning. It's not as visceral or brutal as a demon fight could be. It's almost cartoonish, like a rerun of Gargoyles. And aside from the exchanges between Domino and Colossus, there isn't a lot of strong dialog here either.

That doesn't make the battle feel any less fitting. It doesn't go above and beyond to make Hitchcock fans anxious, but it doesn't fail in any respect. It just puts the X-men in the middle of a demon fight without a lot of strategy. It keeps things simple. Colossus wants to try and save his sister again. And after he failed last time and got his arm fucked up, it seems like he's pissing into the wind.

It doesn't take long for this tactic to come back to bite him. After a few generic brawls with random demons, they find out they dove head-first into a demon-filled shit storm. They may be evil and sadistic, but they're not stupid. Run head-first into their domain and they're like hungry dogs watching a wounded kitten eat their steaks. They're going to fucking fight back and they're going to have the advantage. Remember, Cyclops warned them that they were not equipped to take on Inferno like this. Having been clawed and crippled by them, he would know and he ends up being vindicated.

That doesn't stop some of the X-men from having a few badass moments. Nightcrawler gets to shine a little and he even makes a Princess Bride reference. He also gets to save an incredibly overmatched Boom Boom so Colossus isn't the only one who gets cozy with a pretty girl. It still doesn't stop her from getting clawed in the back like Cyclops. Anyone else starting to see a pattern here? Or maybe I am overdosing. I can't really tell.

The action remains fairly basic, but it does still carry some personal weight once Magik shows up. She's still the main driving force behind this story. She's the one that Colossus is trying to save and she's doing everything she can to make him want to leave her in Hell so he can go back to humping Domino. She has to know he's already pretty damn tempted. After wounding Boom Boom, Colossus has even fewer excuses. There's being a good brother and then there's just being a gullible douche.

In the end, it isn't Magik that he has to worry about the most. She's basically Inferno's pitbull on a leash. The one still tugging that leash is the Goblin Queen, also known as Marvel's first failed attempt to make clones viable. Colossus is on a roll against the demons, at least for a while. But eventually, his bullshit lack of strategy catches up with him and Domino gets roughed up. And since Magik isn't there to rub it in his face like a bratty little sister should, the Goblin Queen opts to do it for her.

Now this is the first time the Goblin Queen shows up in this story so her appearance is kind of a WTF moment. With Magik being the main focus since the beginning, it feels somewhat out of place. However, given that this world does stem from Inferno, her presence isn't just appropriate. It's downright necessary. And since Cyclops' balls aren't present for her to bust, she decides to focus on Colossus. And since she has Domino fully subdued, she can do so in a true Game of Thrones style tradition.

This issue didn't have a lot of Madelyne Pryor in a thong, but it had plenty of other positives to offer. It created a section of Battleworld that felt genuinely different and unique, compared to the other sections that had been introduced thus far. This is a world that could've easily become real fucking dark real fast. Anything that involves demons and evil clones is bound to become dark to some extent. However, the story still maintained a distinct sense of purpose that wasn't entirely centered around whether or not Madelyne Pryor was wearing a thong. Make no mistake, that's still part of the appeal. It's just not the only appeal.

There are still a few plots that aren't sufficiently fleshed out, but not to the point where it's going to give someone a seizure. It does make an effort to tie into more recent events with X-men, such as Colossus hooking up with Domino. But this really doesn't add as much to the story as it could've. Other elements like Cyclops being in a wheelchair and Havok being Madelyne's prison bitch add some more compelling dynamics. It still feels like a What If story of sorts. It doesn't really tie into the greater landscape of Battleworld that others have, but it still works. If nothing else, Inferno #1 lays a pretty solid foundation, even without Madelyne Pryor's underboob showing. I give Inferno #1 a 7 out of 10. It raises more questions than answers, but some of those questions give me wonderful feelings in my pants and that's usually a positive sign. Nuff said!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Old Man Logan #1

It's hard to believe that Wolverine has stayed dead for this long. Actually, I take that back. It's slightly easier when considering that there were already plenty of place-holders ready to fill the void. We have X-23, Daken, and an inverted Sabretooth. Like the New England Patriots adding depth to a championship team, Marvel made sure their roster was stacked before Wolverine went to that big biker bar in the sky. That's not to say that they've been able to completely replace Wolverine. Like replacing Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, Marvel can only do so much. I could make several blog posts about how their efforts have fallen shorter than the last 10 years for the Oakland Raiders. But the setup in Battleworld for Secret Wars gives Marvel a new opportunity to scratch that Wolverine itch.

Of the many iterations of Wolverine, from the gray-haired freedom fighter in Days of Futures Past to the flamboyantly gay dimension hopper in Xtreme X-men, the world of Old Man Logan offers a special kind of Wolverine. This is a world where Wolverine isn't constantly put in the middle of X-men melodramas that involve him trying to hump marred women or whine about Cyclops. It's a very dark world, but one that brought out the best and worst in Wolverine. It was an obvious choice to add to Battleworld for Secret Wars. That gives Battleworld a cantankerous, battle-hardened version of Wolverine that even Hugh Jackman can't make sexy. That makes him perfect for Secret Wars and Old Man Logan #1 shows us why.

It hits the ground running, putting Wolverine in comfortable surroundings and I'm not talking about the kind that a competent headmaster of a school would be in (except for Texas). He finds himself crashing a card game and I'm not talking about a Tuesday night game of bridge at a retirement home either. These guys are the kinds of assholes that exist in the world of Old Man Logan, degenerate criminals who have as many redeeming qualities as Shia Lebouf's acting career at this point. Wolverine kindly points out that they're involved in human trafficking, which in his world is basically an industry on par with McDonald's. They even have the audacity to wear masks of the heroes that are long dead. It's remarkable Wolverine restrained himself long enough for them to try and fight back.

That goes about as well as Nicholas Cage's last three movies. Wolverine lets them get off a few shots. Then he proceeds to eviscerate their miserable asses in ways that even Quentin Tarantino would find too excessive. It's bloody. It's brutal. And I'll say this when I'm as sober as I can be. It's fucking awesome. It's not crude or quick either. The dark and gritty style provided by Andrea Sorrentino gives it the perfect mood. It's like candles and roses for a romantic dinner, but with a lot more blood. It's the perfect way to flesh out the violence.

It's not just awesome because of the violence or the details either. This is Wolverine at his most basic. He's mean, he's violent, and he's brutal when he slays his enemies. He doesn't try to talk it out like Captain America, make jokes like Spider-Man, or strategize like Cyclops. He just lets his claws do all the work. This is the kind of Wolverine we didn't see much of after he became the head of the Jean Grey Institute. This is a much meaner, darker Wolverine who nobody in their right mind would want teaching kids unless they belonged to Ted Nugant. Even though Wolverine hasn't been "dead" in the comics for long, it feels like it's been way too fucking long since we've had a Wolverine like this.

The violence continues to escalate in ways that will churn stomachs for some and cause huge boners for others. Not many of the assholes playing a friendly game of poker earlier survive the initial onslaught. That doesn't stop some from calling in backup. They come driving in, Fast and Furious style, and use Wolverine as target practice. But since this Wolverine didn't lose his healing factor to some bullshit scheme, he shrugs it off the same way most people shrug off a hangnail. Once he's done being mildly annoyed, he finishes them off. It's so visceral and brutal to us. But for Wolverine, it's basically Tuesday.

The brutal violence makes a hell of a mess to say the least. But violence alone doesn't make something awesome. It's the effect of said violence that add refinement, sort of like a perfectly mixed cocktail at a party thrown by the Koch brothers. Once limbs stop being amputated, Wolverine confronts the non-stabbable portions of this problem. He confronts the human trafficking victims and kids of these criminals that were being exploited. Like hipster douche-bags who are banned from wi-fi at a Starbucks, they're less than grateful. However, Wolverine's capacity to not give a shit is on a scale that even Doom himself can't contemplate.

It still adds some dramatic weight to the scene. The son of one of the criminals Wolverine just killed even shoots him, but Wolverine doesn't apologize. Remember, this isn't the version of Wolverine that worries about traumatizing kids. He just tells him and all the other victims that they can do better than this shit. And if they can't and they still want to blame him, they're welcome to come after him. I'm sorry, but I have no response for that. That's just too badass for any mind, drunk or sober, to sufficiently quantify.

Not surprisingly, nobody dares go after Wolverine. He doesn't even offer to help clean up the mess he made. He just hops on a horse and rides off in ways that John Wayne himself would approve of. He heads off into a desert, as far away from the criminal shit storm that has consumed his world. It's the only place he can get some peace and quiet in his world. However, this isn't just his world now. This is fucking Battleworld. And this is where the world of Old Man Logan meets the events of Secret Wars.

It's not a very flashy manifestation. Dr. Doom doesn't show up and tell him to tone it the fuck down. The Thor corps doesn't show up to give him shit. It's just the head of an old Ultron model that falls from the sky. In Battleworld, it amounts to an unusually large hailstone. It's not the kind of convergence that's going to soak anyone's panties, but it does provide the first link to the larger conflicts in Battleworld.

He ends up taking the Ultron head to the home/shack of Danielle Cage, who is one of the few friends that Wolverine has left in this world. Given all the people he's killed, that's saying something. There's a nice little exchange that explores the dynamic between them, one that reveals they are aware of the setup in Battleworld. They know about the Thors and about Ultron to some extent. It's an important facet to establish in that it provides more connections with Battleworld. But that's pretty much all it does.

In the end, Wolverine just decides that he's going to look into this and not really give a reason for why. Then again, he's Wolverine. And this is a version of Wolverine whose reasons for his behavior are almost as limited as his ability to give a fuck about killing human trafficking criminals. He just sees an Ultron head and think it might be a sign of a much bigger problem. That or he's bored killing criminals. Either way could work.

Whatever his reasons, Wolverine decides to get help from a few other of the remaining allies who don't want to shoot him on sight. One of those allies happens to be Emma Frost, someone who has a knack for surviving shitty situations and looking damn sexy while doing it. She tempts Wolverine at first, as only she can. Then she decides to be a bit more helpful, but still finds a way to be sexy while doing it. She's Emma Frost. No matter how shitty the world is, she's going to find a way to be sexy. It's just who she is.

It turns out she's been holding up in the last place Wolverine saw an Ultron robot. So in that sense, there is some coherent reason behind this other than wanting to meet up with a sexy blond, as though there needs to be a coherent reason in the first place. But Emma offers even more reasons, providing some additional details to the world of Old Man Logan that add to its place in Battleworld. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of details that even she can't make sexy.

Remember those criminal assholes that had set up shop? Well there's a reason that Wolverine has to deal with them with the kind of brutality that even the LAPD frowns upon. When Wolverine killed the Hulks in this world, it created a power vacuum that turned typical criminals into the kind of degenerate douche-bags that would overcharge for a bag of weed. That has created the criminal shit storm that Wolverine has found himself in. It helps create a unique character for the world of Old Man Logan, one that could work just as easily without Battleworld. But adding Battleworld to the mix just helps make it more volatile, which always works to Wolverine's advantage.

It also creates another problem in that when the criminals become bolder, the people who don't like being victimized by crime do the same. That led to the creation of a vigilante squad called the Punishers. And I think Frank Castle would approve here because they use the kind of brutality that makes Wolverine feel right at home. And they're the reason why Emma Frost's new digs is a ghost town. Wolverine is efficient, but let's face it. A team of Punishers offers so many more solutions to a problem beyond just stabbing.

It adds to the danger, but Wolverine still can't muster up enough energy to give a fraction of a fuck. He asks for Emma's help in finding out what happened with this Ultron robot. Emma then reveals that she's really not in a position to do much. Apparently, she got caught in the crossfire with the Punishers and has been using her telepathy to appear sexy just long enough to tell Wolverine she can't help. All she can tell him is that he's not going to find the answers in this world. He's going to have to scale the barriers between worlds to learn more. In Battleworld, that's like telling someone they'll find their answers by jumping into a volcano. For Wolverine though, a dip in a vat of lava isn't a deal-breaker.

It also marks a sad, but expected end for Emma Frost in this world. She attempted to take on the Punishers. There's only so much diamond skin and sex appeal have in this world. That should give a pretty clear indication of just how dark this world is. But dark or not, it works in that it still has just the right emotional weight.

With or without the emotional underpinnings, Wolverine's choice is clear. He's not going to accomplish much by staying in a world where criminals and vigilantes conduct slaughters every other Thursday. If he's going to make a difference in anything, he has to scale the walls dividing Battleworld. What he intends to do is still not clearly and poorly defined. However, this version of Wolverine has already established himself as being willing to take obscene risks and give the finger to anyone who gets in his way. And if a god-powered Dr. Doom is going to be in his way, well then it sucks to be him.

This is a story about a world that nobody with a Prozac prescription should read too closely. That said, it's a world that works perfectly in the context of Old Man Logan. It carries on the dark undertones in all the right ways. In many respects, this is the version of Wolverine that the comics have been missing since he decided to rip off the Dead Poets Society with the Jean Grey Institute. This is a Wolverine that's hardened, mean, and willing to kill. In other words, he's the exact opposite of the watered-down Wolverine that Fox has been making movies of for the past 15 years. Sure, he looks like Clint Eastwood's nutsack, but he embodies everything that's awesome about Wolverine.

This is a Wolverine who doesn't mind gutting dip-shit gamblers who poke fun at dead heroes. This is a Wolverine who will give the finger to Dr. Doom's authority the same way he gave the finger to Cyclops' authority. But what makes it truly work is that the spirit created in the original Old Man Logan fits perfectly within the context of Battleworld. It puts Wolverine in a position to be his brutal self and fuck up Dr. Doom's plans. If there was going to be any character who dared to spit in the face of a god-powered Dr. Doom, it's this version of Wolverine. He has nothing to lose and he's willing to be brutal in ways that permanently disqualify him from ever being headmaster of a school. I give Old Man Logan #1 a 9 out of 10. The Wolverine of 616 might be dead, but this version will gladly spit on his grave and pick up the slack. And he'll take on Dr. Doom, kick his ass, and come back just to piss on his headstone because that's the kind of Wolverine we're dealing with now. Nuff said!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Gender-Neutral Awesome: A-Force #1

The following is my review of A-Force #1, which was posted on

There was once a time when the epitome of girl power was the Spice Girls. Take the same pre-packaged, heavily processed concoction that created boy bands and use women instead. Somehow that’s supposed to celebrate all things feminine. To be fair, that was the late 90s. It was a time when Nicholas Cage was still considered an A-list actor and the concept of strong female characters was limited to characters played by Sigourney Weaver.

Now the concept of strong female characters has become a mainstream concept and A-Force #1 is put in a position to capitalize on that concept. The timing couldn’t be better. Marvel has been the championship surfer riding the wave of female characters that have risen to prominence in recent years. Characters like Batgirl, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, and Kamala Khan have shown that they can carry their own weight without having to dress like Emma Frost. With Secret Wars in full swing, there’s enough chaos and confusion to do something different that doesn’t involve just flipping the boy band formula.

Battleworld has created a new environment for female characters from multiple eras to come together for a singular struggle. It’s an environment where every character is free of baggage, reduced to their purest form. It’s like taking football players from multiple eras and putting them on the same team when they’re playing at an all-pro level. It has every conceivable detail to work with. And in A-Force #1, the result is rich in substance yet incomplete in scope.

The domain of Arcadia is by far the most appealing locale in Battleworld to date. It’s a land that is devoid of zombies, killer robots, or evil clones. In the context of the Marvel universe, it might as well be an endangered species. It feels like a world that might actually be worth living in and not just because it’s protected by a team of beautiful women. In fact, the concept that Arcadia is protected by a team of women is almost secondary. The story never focuses on it or uses it to make a statement of sorts. It’s just how Arcadia functions. It may upset the Rush Limbaugh’s of the world, but few others will really notice it.

This in and of itself is an important accomplishment. By not focusing on gender, the story isn’t about a domain that’s protected by a team of superpowered women. It’s about a domain whose protectors just happen to be superpowered women. Their gender is a non-issue. They don’t do anything that a team of male heroes wouldn’t. They police their world, look out for one another, and develop close friendships. And they do this without coming off as a Sex in the City re-run.

Beyond the accomplishment, the story has the same themes and conflicts as other domains of Battleworld. It doesn’t matter that Arcadia is peaceful and protected by a team of women. It’s still subject to the same rules imposed by Dr. Doom. That means that when one of them breaks a rule, they suffer the same consequences. In this story, it’s Miss America who runs afoul of Dr. Doom’s rules. And when it comes to his rules, Dr. Doom practices strict gender equality. That alone puts him above 90 percent of the countries on Earth, which is a disturbing thought.

Like other residents of Battleworld, Miss America learns the hard way that Dr. Doom doesn’t like it when one domain encroaches on another. It’s not just for invasions either. Miss America threw a dead shark over the shields dividing their domains. That counts as an extreme version of littering and Dr. Doom is as strict as Singapore when it comes to that policy.

It leads to an emotional struggle within A-Force. They know the rules like everyone else. They try to protect their friend from the consequences. They don’t succeed. They don’t get special treatment. They don’t even try to flirt their way out of it. Miss America still has to pay for her crimes and it weighs heavy on her friends. It’s a toll that’s actually more compelling than a giant shark attacking Arcadia. It’s a nice change of pace, but it’s also part of the primary flaw in this story.

The conflict is triggered by an attack from a giant shark. It’s a conflict that is only slightly more engaging than the last Sharknado movie. While it does give A-Force a chance to show what they can do as a team, it lacks the kind of epic scale that has helped make Secret Wars feel like a multi-dimensional royal rumble. It’s practically glossed over. It’s basically a teaser trailer to the emotional struggle involving Miss America, minus the bad one-liners and annoying voice-overs.

That’s not to say the shark attack was completely without merit. It’s an issue that A-Force seeks to investigate. It’s an investigation that also coincides with the unexpected arrival of another female character. However, the connections are limited and the flow of events gets somewhat choppy. It’s like watching the Godfather on cable with poorly timed commercials interrupting the narrative.

Flaws aside, A-Force #1 creates an appealing, engaging world that’s worth exploring. It’s not some grand utopian vision where women rule the world and all is well. It’s not some dystopian horror where an army of Don Drapers rule either. It’s a world that offers fertile ground with which to explore these female characters, minus convoluted romantic entanglements and radical feminist undertones.

This is also a world where the strength of women takes center stage and they do it without denigrating men. On paper, it shouldn’t feel like such a novel concept. Maybe it says something about both genders when something so refreshing also feels so unfamiliar. It’s not that the idea of strong female characters not having to beat up arrogant male characters is new. It’s just that someone finally took the time to tell that story in a way that all genders can appreciate.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, May 22, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue 121: Dark Legacy Part 1 is LIVE!

Some conflicts are the result of smaller conflicts that have built and escalated over time. Some are a result of a convergence of various other conflicts that reinforce one another. In the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, I’ve created stories around both types. Magneto’s plot to use an asteroid to destroy the world in Overlord was largely a result of his failures in the Uprising arc. The events of Weapon Plus were primarily a result of Weapon X being defeated and Colonel Wraith seeking to subvert General Grimshaw. However, the conflict in the final arc of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths is a combination of both.

This is a conflict that begins and ends with Sinister. He’s already done a great deal of damage to the X-men throughout this fanfiction series. Between disrupting Rogue’s powers and tormenting Wolverine with his past, he’s shown that he’s capable of causing the X-men a great deal of pain. However, he’s usually been content to stay in the shadows. He’s not like Magneto in that he seeks a global stage. He rarely causes a conflict that require the X-men to deal with the global impact. That’s been Sinister’s style in both X-men Supreme and the comics. But that changes with this arc.

Sinister is in a dangerous state. Having lost Selene after the events of Civilization No Longer Lost, he is disturbed and unstable. He is so unstable that even his closest allies, Vulcan and Goblin Queen, have shown concern. But nothing can stop him at this point. He’s already set into motion the events that will create the conflict in this arc. And unlike previous arcs involving Sinister, this one will touch every corner of X-men Supreme. His actions will disrupt the very foundation of this fanfiction series. It’ll also lead to some far-reaching consequences that will affect some characters more than others.

Some characters have already felt it. Mystique and Wolverine were the first victims after Sinister revealed that Mystique was actually Rose, the woman that Wolverine once loved. But that revelation was only a pre-cursor. The X-men already know of a conflict brewing involving techno-organic material that went missing from Genosha. That conflict has put them on a collision course with Sinister that will culminate in this arc. X-men Supreme will never be the same and it’ll be all Sinister’s doing. And it begins here.

X-men Supreme Issue 121: Dark Legacy Part 1

There’s still a lot I want to do with this fanfiction series, even after this arc. I’m getting closer to making my decision. I have been getting feedback from some very kind readers, but it’s still limited. I’m about to do some very disruptive things with the X-men and it’s something nobody will be able to read in the X-men comics. That’s why it’s so important that I get feedback. I want to make sure that I’m doing this right, creating a world for X-men fans that they can’t get anywhere else. Please take the time to contact me directly or post your comments in the issue. I’m always happy to talk X-men. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Secret Wars Battleworld #1

I imagine that when the world ends, I’ll either be in a bar or sitting naked in my bathtub with a bottle of whiskey in both hands. I don’t think that everyone in the Marvel universe thought that far ahead after the events of Secret Wars. They tried and failed to stop the final incursion between their world and the rotting corpse that is Ultimate Marvel. But the end of the world doesn’t mean the end of the story. The Disney overlords who aren’t content swimming in a pool of Age of Ultron money will never allow that.

With the entire Marvel universe in ruin, only Battleworld remains. This creates the kind of fucked up setting that is usually only found in a Stanley Kubrick movie. It’s like Marvel took a drunk off the streets, pumped him with tequila and meth, and had him chop up random bits of various Marvel universes into a singular clusterfuck of a world. Seeing as how I blacked out for two days and woke up in a ditch in New Orleans last weekend, I have my suspicions. But in this singular clusterfuck, there are characters from multiple worlds coming together to explore this new world. Secret Wars Battleworld #1 offers a taste of what we can expect in this singular clusterfuck of a world. Since the tequila and meth are now out of my system, I’m ready to give a fair assessment.

It goes without saying that there are a lot of fucked up versions of characters that were fucked up to begin with. I won’t say Frank Castle is the most fucked up in the Marvel Universe, not by a long shot. But he’s still a man who needs more therapy than an army of Dr. Phils. But in one nook of Battleworld, there’s a version of him whose body and soul got hijacked by Dr. Strange. In his defense, he was battling an army of vampires and not the ones that sparkle either. It still sucks for Castle, which is probably why he decided to give the finger to Dr. Droom’s rules about staying within your own damn fucked up AU. There’s not a whole lot of background info given on him or his world, but it’s just enough to make this story function without the aid of LSD.

Whatever his story or the reasons for being stuck with Dr. Strange, Frank Castle is still a guy who tends not to give a shit about draconian laws, even if they’re passed down by a unholy uber-powerful Dr. Doom. As a result, he gets a visit from a team of familiar faces representing Dr. Doom’s version of mall cops. This includes the Hulk, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and Ghost Rider. With a team like this, Paul Blart might have actually been a watchable movie. They basically tell him that he’s been crossing borders and in Dr. Doom’s world, that’s like punching the President in the dick.

This sorcerer Punisher doesn’t have a spell that allows him to punch Dr. Doom in the dick, but he does have spells that make for a pretty awesome fight. He can still conjure guns. He can still channel his inner Rambo. But having the Sorcerer Supreme at his disposal certainly has its advantages. He’s able to de-Hulk Bruce Banner and freeze Ghost Rider. I’m sure he’s disappointed that he couldn’t do this with a big ass gun, but I think he’s learned from Tony Stark that big ass guns can cause more problems than they solve. That or Tony Stark is just a lousy shot.

It’s still nice fight that shows how the Punisher makes use of his powers as the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s still not all that epic. It feels rushed and underdeveloped. But it gets the job done. A version of the Punisher armed with the powers of the Sorcerer Supreme shouldn’t be a fair fight. Like giving Jason Vorhees a machine gun, there’s only so much would-be camp counselors can do.

But like Jason Vorhees, one victim is always going to come back to bite him. This time it’s Wolverine. After what it took to kill him in 616, the power of the Sorcerer Supreme isn’t quite as efficient in taking him out. That makes the battle between Wolverine and the Punisher a bit more engaging, but not by much. It’s not because the Punisher doesn’t have the power either. He really doesn’t try to win. Even when Dr. Strange offers to help him, he doesn’t really give a shit. So when Wolverine comes in for an attack, he opts to just use a spell that blows himself up.

If it sounds crude and unnecessary, don’t quit drinking. It is, but for a reason. It’s not a good reason, but it’s still better than any reason my landlord gives for jacking up the rent. The Punisher doesn’t care much for living under Dr. Doom’s absolute laws. He didn’t even care much for living under America’s laws. Since he can’t shoot a god-powered Doom between the eyes, he’ll settle for going down fighting. It’s still pretty crude in that it effectively ends his story in a suicide-by-cop type deal. That’s really not Frank Castle’s style, even if he is dealing with Dr. Strange’s shit. It makes for a flashy finale, but it has no real impact. It’s just one of the many benefits of Battleworld. It’s basically as flexible as fan fiction, minus all the horrible grammar.

Having blown himself up, the Sorcerer Supreme Punisher is no more. It’s probably for the best. Punisher armed with that much power would’ve created a world where quality blow was impossible to get. Wolverine even pointed out that Castle had a death wish. It further limits the impact of the fight, but in a place like Battleworld I guess that’s to be expected. With so many version of other characters running around, I’m sure some get tired of that shit real fast.

But Frank Castle’s death did have one notable effect. It freed Dr. Strange’s soul from Castle, which meant he was in need of a new host. And since Wolverine just happened to be at ground zero, he decides to hitch a ride. This way, he gets more booze and sexier women. I guess if anyone wins here, it’s Dr. Strange. He still has to tag along while Wolverine is acting as Dr. Doom’s pit-bull, but it could be worse. He could be bound to Howard the Duck’s body.

That’s the end of the first mini-story in this issue. The second involves something a little less emo, but only to the extent that someone like MODOK can go goth. Yes, this walking Mardi Gras float gets to have some fun in Battleworld too and he’s not nearly as pessimistic as Frank Castle.

In a lab in one of Battleworld’s warzones, which I’m guessing is somewhere outside a version of Detroit, MODOK has created a machine that can transport multiple versions of himself from across Battleworld. Like Frank Castle, he’s basically spitting in the face of a god-powered Dr. Doom. He would probably be better off trying to sue Apple, but it’s not like MODOK has ever fully thought his plans through. He’s designed for killing, not being proactive. He leaves that sort of shit for villains who don’t make people laugh or think someone gave them bad acid.

Careful thought aside, MODOK’s machine works. He’s able to summon an army of twisted AU MODOKs that look more like cos-players than equals. There’s one that looks like Spider-Man. There’s one that looks like Hulk. There’s even one that looks like a really fat version of Mr. Chow from the Hangover, although I imagine his dick is the same size. It’s a fucked up assortment of MODOKs, but that’s exactly what makes it work. Unlike the Punisher, it’s not meant to be serious. How can anyone take a giant floating head seriously to begin with? Unless their Power Rangers, this might as well be one of Deadpool’s dreams that don’t involve tacos.

MODOK tries to rally his fellow MODOKs into joining him in the fight against Dr. Doom. And by joining him, he basically means they should all follow him so he can basically take Dr. Doom’s place. Let’s face it, MODOK is about as subtle as George W. Bush on crystal meth and has as much charisma as Ben Stein on valium. His other selves aren’t all that inspired. Hell, they would’ve been more inspired by watching an old Mighty Ducks movie. They start bickering and arguing, as only clones and AU characters can. It’s like a sitcom, minus the cocaine in between takes.

It only gets too fucked up, even for MODOK, when he confronts a version of himself that looks like a baby. And it’s not the cute kind of baby that makes a new viral video every other day or so. This is a crazy, homicidal baby version of MODOK. It’s not nearly as adorable as it sounds. This seems to be the final straw for MODOKs duplicates. Any plan that involves a crazy baby is just too fucked up, even for MODOK. Like Spider-Man and clones, MODOK and other versions of himself just don’t work.

It leads to a massive MODOK vs. MODOK vs. MODOK brawl. It’s every bit as fucked up and entertaining as it sounds. Like giving a bunch of drunk monkies an unlimited supply of spray cheese, it’s just a chaotic and crazy scene. Like the fight with the Punisher and Wolverine earlier, it’s not a fight that’s going to have a lot of impact. This sort of shit isn’t exactly going to undermine Dr. Doom’s god-like power. But it’s still entertaining and funny. Where else are we going to see MODOK kick is own ass for once? And the guy doesn’t even have an ass in the first place. That just makes this all the more appropriate.

Eventually, MODOK and his army cause enough of a racket for Dr. Doom to take notice. That or Dr. Doom had to stop laughing his ass off long enough to send the Thor Corps to investigate. He must have been laughing pretty hard because by the time they show up, all the MODOKs are dead or defeated. The entire facility is in ruins as well. There’s only one MODOK left and he’s more than eager to surrender. He’s capable of taking on the Hulk. He’s even willing to take on the Avengers. But after a battle against versions of himself that include a giant baby, he’s done.

This issue doesn’t really move the overall plot of Secret Wars forward, but it doesn’t attempt to and it doesn’t have to in order to be awesome. The scope and scale of Secret Wars is way too fucking big for one series. Even tie-ins can only accomplish so much. Battleworld has so many domains and so many characters that trying to fit them all into one narrative would be like trying to perform brain surgery while having an orgy at the Playboy Mansion. This story gave us two short yet entertaining stories. They’re not going to do anything other than amuse Dr. Doom, but they do offer some nice insight into the workings of Battleworld.

And like any other domain that doesn’t take place in a 1950s sitcom, there are some fucked up neighborhoods. Areas that have Frank Castle as the sorcerer supreme and MODOK recruiting multiple versions of himself are like the streets in a city where all the strip clubs are based. They don’t make the same contributions as others, but they still play a role. In the same way no society can function without a place for men to get a good lap dance, Battleworld can’t function without perspective. These perspectives are easy to overlook, especially for those who don’t read their comics sober. But it’s a nice bonus level of sorts. I give Secret Wars Battleworld #1 a 6 out of 10. If nothing else, this issue taught me that if mankind ever masters multidimensional travel, then I’m better off not knowing how fucked up my alternate selves are. Nuff said!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Clear Skies and Clearer Understanding: Storm #11

The following is my review of Storm #11, which was posted on

There are certain characters whose appeal we'll never understand. Can anyone truly claim they know why Andy Dick had his own show or why Rebecca Black had a hit single? On the other end of the spectrum are characters like Storm, whose appeal goes beyond any viral video or Twitter trend. She's as much an icon for the X-men as Wonder Woman is for the Justice League. It's gotten to the point where we can accept a world where the X-men can function without Wolverine, settling instead for clones or inverted enemies. But we can't accept a world where the X-men can function without Storm. Just ask Black Panther.

In many respects, Greg Pak's has done for Storm what Grant Morrison did for Superman in his All-Star Superman series. He makes concepts like killing giant robots or humiliating the Lex Luthors of the world secondary. Instead, he focuses on fleshing out the defining traits that make us love Ororo Munroe.

Throughout this series, he's touched on many core aspects of her character. There's Storm, the dedicated teacher. There's Storm, the dedicated humanitarian. And there's Storm, the woman who just lost her lover. But no matter which Storm she is, she's a character that commands love and respect. And she does it while looking sexier than Superman ever could. She doesn't even need an obscenely revealing costume designed by Rob Liefeld either. It's one of the many testaments to Storm's character.

So before Secret Wars blinds everyone to the simpler pleasures of refined, likable characters, Pak explores one more core trait to Storm's character in Storm #11. And it's a trait that truly epitomizes the concept of the X-men as a whole. The imagery of Charles Xavier's bald head or Wolverine's chest hair might be more defining to some. But for Storm, the act of reaching out to a scared and unstable young mutant is what defines the X-men.

It's this act that Storm has raised to an art form that Pablo Picasso himself would admire. And she has to push her skills in this craft to their very limit because she has to deal with the kind of unstable mutant that wouldn't even be welcome on the set of Jerry Springer. Kenji Uedo, once the least unstable member of Generation Hope, has returned and he's still as unstable as ever. And since nobody has cared about Hope Summers since Andrew Luck's rookie season, he's taking his anger out on Storm.

In this respect, he chose the perfect target. Storm is the very antithesis of who he is. In addition to being a blatant Akira rip-off, Kenji is the ugliest manifestation of mutants. He's obscenely disfigured, exceedingly unstable, and can't be controlled. On the other end of the spectrum, Storm embodies beauty that even Hallie Berry couldn't sufficiently capture and power so balanced that it can end famine and bring joy. They're still similar in the sense that they both have the power to unleash untold destruction. The main difference is that Storm chooses to use that power to bring peace while Kenji chooses to use that power to make the world his personal toilet bowl.

Beyond just the physical and personal struggles, Kenji attempts to break Storm's spirit down by touching on all those she has interacted with throughout this series. Every struggle that has helped emphasize why she's the most iconic and beloved X-man in history is brought into the fold. It's a perfectly structured act of convergence that DC Comics should take note of. It effectively raises the emotional and personal stakes for Storm. And true to the goddess we know and love, she rises to the occasion in ways that even an army of Hallie Berry's couldn't capture.

Storm exercises every level of her strengths. First, she shows off the kind of power she has over the elements. Kenji, being an immature mutant who hasn't destroyed enough killer robots to call himself an X-man, tries to break Storm by attacking all the friends and allies she reconnected with over the course of the series. Instead of breaking, she gives Kenji a lesson that he won't get outside of an old Catholic school. In an act that would make Spinal Tap proud, she turns the volume up on her powers to 11 and creates a dazzling weather display that effectively purges Kenji's Akira-inspired attacks off the world. However, it's her second attack that is truly defining.

She was still in a position to give Kenji the kind of discipline that even the most sadistic nun wouldn't condone. She has more than enough power to make him wish he was born without skin. However, she chooses not to fight him. Instead, she and the friends she made in this series connect with Kenji. In doing so, she shows him that she too has an ugly side. She has a history of making bad mistakes and not just because of her choice in haircuts. She may carry herself with a beauty and grace that would inspire countless Sir-Mix-A-Lot songs, but she is still as flawed as he is. She just chooses to be something greater.

This is what ends up winning the battle. She doesn't have to kill or even hurt Kenji. She just has to inspire him. This is what makes Storm who she is. This is why she embodies the best of what the X-men have to offer. Cyclops may have the love of hot telepathic women. Wolverine may have the chest hair and bad boy appeal. Charles Xavier may have wisdom and likeness of Patrick Stewart. But Storm has the heart.

It is the best possible conclusion for a series. Storm #11 effectively links all the elements that have been explored throughout this series into one, concise narrative that acts as a love letter to Storm fans of every era. She is the last remaining anchor in the world of X-men that champions their ideals. She has the kind of spirit and heart that the Inhumans will never be able to match, although they'll certainly try. There are so many traits that make Storm the ultimate X-man. It's impossible for any issue or series to cover them all, but this one made a truly worthy effort.

Final Score: 10 out of 10

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #34

There comes a point where someone has had so many bad days that they just say, “Fuck it!” And I’m not just talking about the kinds of days that involve a tax audit, a parking ticket, and a bar fight that ends with missing teeth. I’m talking about the days that will earn extra therapy for some and extra whiskey for others. For the X-men, I think they’ve gotten a handwritten thank-you letter from every distillery east of the Mississippi at this point. The New Xavier School closed down. Cyclops’ students hate his guts. Emma Frost has locked her panties for the foreseeable future. And Dazzler is still fuming about being screwed over by SHIELD and Mystique. Seeing as how the world is set to end with Secret Wars, they deserve a little more than an extra case of whiskey.

There’s not a whole lot they can do at this point to avoid the cosmic clusterfuck that Secret Wars brings. But that doesn’t mean they can’t face the upcoming incursion without saying they gave the middle finger to their circumstances. At this point, who really gives a shit about the Schism or the shit that went down after Avengers vs. X-men? Are there really any fucks left to give at this point? I say no and Uncanny X-men #34 offers a previous sliver of time between now and Secret Wars to get their shit right. Some take advantage of it. Some don’t. Like everyone who thought the iPhone would fail, those that don’t have any excuses at this point.

And if anyone is good at exploiting the fuck out of a situation, it’s Mystique. If the world is ending, her only concern is how much debt she can run up in the meantime. She’s already run up quite a bit with the shit she did to Dazzler and the shit she’s doing in Wolverines. Yet she still finds time to steal the identity of a famous Bollywood actress and crash in her mansion, complete with all the luxuries that movie stars can enjoy. Say what you will about Mystique, but she knows how to enjoy herself. She would be the ultimate wingman on a trip to Vegas.

Naturally, her love of exploiting the shit out of everyone else’s clusterfucks gets the attention of Cyclops. He’s a guy who could use Mystique’s approach of not giving enough of a shit to enjoy her time before the world ends, but he’s a little more ambitious. And he’s more than a little curious about how Mystique may or may not fuck with those ambitious. Given her history, it’s probably the most reasonable thing he’s done since letting Emma Frost buy the porno.

Mystique is her usual sassy, devious self and it’s still sexy as hell. She doesn’t feel threatened by Cyclops in the slightest. In fact, she treats him the same way Game of Thrones fans treat message boards, using every opportunity to troll the hell out of him. That includes shape-shifting into his ex-girlfriends, teasing him with the Phoenix, and bringing up his recent breakup with Emma Frost. It’s basically anti-therapy. She’s trying to make Cyclops feel he needs to start shooting heroine.

To his credit, he doesn’t book the first flight to Tijuana. He’s able to endure Mystique’s trolling and stay serious. He basically asks her the same question Mystique fans have been asking since Messiah Complex. What the hell is her problem and why the fuck has she become a total sociopath? She’s not quite a King Joffrey level cunt, but she’s trying way too hard. It’s a problem because there was actually a time when Mystique had more depth than that. Cyclops even points that out to her. Since he’s in a similar state, being despised by everyone and on Maria Hill’s shit list, it’s a relevant question for both of them.

It’s slightly less relevant for Dazzler in the sense that she doesn’t really give a damn why Mystique is acting like a total cunt. She just wants payback for the shit she put her through. Mystique did more than just troll her. She knocked Dazzler out, drugged her, took her place, and used her to create MGH. Unless Mystique hated disco more than anyone else in history, she has no excuse for that shit. And Dazzler wants to bring her to justice.

Unfortunately, that means getting a favor from Maria Hill. And she tends to give out favors the same way the Gordon Ramsey gives out compliments. Lucky for Dazzler, Maria owes her one. She was so busy being angry/horny at Cyclops that she didn’t notice that Mystique had taken her place. Dazzler wants Maria to use SHIELD resources to find her. At first, Maria Hill responds as anyone at the DMV would, telling her to pick a number and be ready to fuck off. However, Maria Hill shows some uncanny understanding that is usually absent from the DMV. She gives Dazzler some info while Dazzler gives her advice on Cyclops. Basically, she tells her to keep her panties on. Whether or not she takes this advice is completely up to her.

The conversation between Mystique and Cyclops isn’t quite as tense at first. Cyclops makes some legitimate observations about their respective situation. They were both affected by the death of Charles Xavier and Wolverine. They’re both branded criminals and everyone they ever cared about now hates their guts. If this were a romantic comedy, they would be dry humping by now. However, the conversation takes an unexpected turn.

It happens when some of Cyclops’ observations are no longer as legitimate. Mystique tries trolling him again and like everyone who got into an argument with a creationist on a message board, Cyclops made the mistake of feeding her. She hints that they had a fling at one point. But outside bad fan fiction, that shit never happened and that tips Mystique off that this isn’t Cyclops. He may talk like him, but keeping a straight face at the mention of them boning is a dead giveaway.

Meanwhile, Dazzler still isn’t done asking Maria Hill for favors. Like Willie Nelson asking for an extension on his taxes, she’s really pushing her luck. But what she asks for isn’t that unreasonable. She just asks that the students from the New Xavier School get a pass. Just because Cyclops rescued them doesn’t mean they should be criminals. Maria Hill is not the IRS so she does show a rare bit of understanding. If only all government officials could be so reasonable. She even throws in some free ice cream if she can bring in Mystique. When is the last time any government employee offered ice cream? The DEA should take notice.

This deal provides all the right incentives. It leads to a beautiful convergence of sorts when it’s revealed who the Cyclops imposter was. It wasn’t another shape-shifter. It was actually Dazzler all along and the Stepford Cuckoos provided the illusion. And since the New Xavier students had an incentive as well, Dazzler brought them along for the ride. That means that for once, Mystique was the victim of deception. It’s the second greatest form of irony, ranking just behind being called an asshole by Kanye West.

It all goes downhill for Mystique from there. The Stepford Cuckoos paralyze her so that she can’t attack. Goldballs disarms her as only he can. Then David Bond uses a stereo to give Dazzler just what she needs to give Mystique the ultimate finger. It’s not as sexy as it sounds, unless you find getting blasted out the window sexy. In a world where some people find Cher sexy, I’m sure that’s a thing. But nobody is more satisfied by this than Dazzler. Hell, I’d be shocked if her panties were dry after this.

With Mystique defeated and turned over to SHIELD, Dazzler decides to celebrate. For her, that doesn’t mean a case of whisky and a bag of blow. It means performing a fucking rock concert that would make Lady Gaga herself envious. I’m not usually one for celebrations that don’t involve whiskey, but I think Dazzler has earned this. She was so badly screwed over by Mystique that she could’ve re-enacted a few gruesome Game of Thrones scenes with Mystique and she would’ve been justified. But she chose not to. She’s still an X-man at heart. She’s just an X-man who also happens to be a fucking rock star. Even Wolverine can’t say he ever had that much skill.

Once the show is over, Maria Hill catches up with her and they basically seal the deal. Dazzler did her part. Maria did hers as well. She didn’t even give her more paperwork to fill out. If only she worked for a traffic court. And since she seems to be in an unusually good mood, she offers Dazzler her old job back. I’m pretty sure that SHIELD has a clause that says nobody can be fired for being screwed over by a shape shifter. Hell, I’m pretty sure that was the first thing their union fought for.

It’s not clear if Dazzler takes Maria Hill up on her offer. But she also makes another point. She says that Cyclops is no longer the mutant that can protect young mutants. And that’s the freshest kind of bullshit there is. I guess nobody told Maria that Cyclops saved young mutants who had been wrongfully arrested for healing innocent people or were shot for no reason by cops. Where the fuck was SHIELD when that happened? Where the fuck was the Jean Grey Institute? And she says he’s not that guy? I don’t know if her rage boner for Cyclops has given her brain damage, but this is the most full of shit any government employee has been that didn’t involve parking tickets.

There’s a much more balanced conversation between the New Xavier School students. They leave the concert and get a bite to eat, which is understandable. Rocking out works up an appetite for both food and other crazy shit. They then talk about what they’re going to do now that their records are clean. They all come to the perfectly reasonable conclusion that just being mutants doesn’t mean they need to be X-men. Cyclops ditched them and the Jean Grey Institute didn’t do shit for them when they were in trouble. So Hijack comes up with an idea. However, it’s not clear what that idea is. Since he looks like he just got a blowjob from Jessica Alba, I’m guessing it’s not entirely fucked. But I’ve been wrong before.

Let’s face facts. There were and still are a metric fuckton of loose ends to resolve for Secret Wars. Anyone expecting Marvel to go all obsessive compulsive and close every one of them like Sheldon Cooper on crack was expecting too much. But let’s give credit to where credit is due. This issue was able to tie up a lingering, drawn out loose end in a simple, concise way. Dazzler’s rage boner against Mystique has finally been quelled and Maria Hill’s rage boner/normal boner for Cyclops has been at least partially quelled. It was satisfying in a way that usually involves lube and weed, but this one allowed me to keep both my hands and my lungs clean.

There are still much larger loose ends to tie up, but this issue provided a template of sorts on how to do it right. Take a long-standing vendetta, mix in a little deception, and throw in some overtly sexy innuendo and the end result is a damn good story/James Bond movie. Dazzler fans can finally break out the disco ball and the roller skates. She really kicked ass in this issue. Even though the world as she knows it ends with Secret Wars, she can now go into it with the satisfaction that she kicked Mystique’s ass and taught a valuable lesson to teenagers. She couldn’t have accomplished more without access to Warren Buffet’s credit card. I give Uncanny X-men #34 a 9 out of 10. Whether she’s an outdated disco queen or a punk rock prototype found only at an Ozzy Osborne concert, Dazzler is awesome. She’s not awesome enough to make disco popular again, but she’s worth giving a shit about. Her awesome may be the only thing that fans of One Direction and Marilyn Manson can agree on. Nuff said!

Friday, May 15, 2015

X-men Supreme Issue 21: Dark Legacy Part 1 PREVIEW!

The secret is out. Revelations of all kinds have struck the Marvel Universe through Secret Wars and similar reservations have struck the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. In the comics, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are no longer the children of Magneto. Angela is the long lost sister of Thor. In X-men Supreme, Mystique is not just Raven Darkhomle, the infamous shape-shifting enemy of the X-men. She’s Rose, the former lover of Wolverine and another victim in the ever-growing body count that is Weapon X. It’s a tenuous time for both worlds and the world of X-men Supreme is about to reap the consequences. It’s not on the same level as Secret Wars, but it will leave the world in this fanfiction series forever changed.

It all starts and ends with Sinister. After losing his beloved Selene during the events of Civilization No Longer Lost, he is shaken. His ambitions have always been grim, but never like this. Losing Selene has led him to abandon whatever reservations he had left. He’s not just willing to torment the X-men. He’s ready to torment the entire world. He already has the means, having stolen the ruins of the World created by Fantomex. He also has the will, which he demonstrated in the painful revelation he forced on Mystique. Now that intent is about to become destructive in a way the X-men have never faced before.

The world in which the X-men fight for peace and understanding is always changing. This fanfiction series is no exception. Often in the comics, those changes are driven by events involving the Avengers or other superhero teams. But here in X-men Supreme, the changes are driven entirely by the X-men and the allies/enemies around them. That has always been a defining trait for this fanfiction series. I want to keep the focus on the X-men’s struggles. There is still room for classic X-men themes like the Shi’ar and the Phoenix Force, but at its core X-men Supreme is about the mutant struggle.

That struggle is going to gain a major complication with the final arc of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths. This final arc will once again re-shape the world of X-men Supreme. Like the events of Overlord and Uprising in previous volumes of X-men Supreme, this event will have a significant impact on the X-men and the battles they fight. If this fanfiction series continues, they will face some significant new challenges. And it all starts here with this arc. It might not be on the same level as Secret Wars. But in the world of X-men Supreme, its impact will be felt by all. As always, I’ve prepared an extended preview that will show the beginning of that impact.

“This is by far the worst locale Sinister has ever chosen to do an experiment,” groaned Arclight as she blew into her hands to warm them up.

“Worse than mission where we learned the horrors of Indian public bathrooms?” said Blockbuster, using his strength to set the last of the six smaller components into place.

“I don’t know about that,” said Riptide, “I would say this is a close second.”

“I say this is worse,” said Arclight strongly, “I get that Sinister can’t tell us the details of these experiments. There are too many psychics in this world who can rip it from our minds. At the very least, he owes us a vague explanation.”

“Even if he did, I bet you would still be bitching about it,” said Harpoon, who was hooking up a series of heavy cables.

“We’re on an active volcano, Harpoon. Don’t test me.”

There was plenty of tension. The winds picked up and blowing snow blanketed the area. Arclight toughed through the cold and helped Harpoon connect the rest of the cables while Riptide and Blockbuster installed the heavier components. The machines were already humming with activity. The high tech components were lighting up, showing little aversion to the cold. It was still a rough environment for a frustrating mission.

“You think you have the right to most pissed? I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned Sabretooth not tagging along for this,” Harpoon pointed out.

“There’s only so much I care to complain about,” said Arclight as she entered some commands on the keypad of a machine, “Besides, I’d rather Sabretooth not tag along for anything.”

“I second that,” said Riptide, “I still don’t get why Sinister brought him aboard. It’s not like he’s a big help. He’s mentally unstable sociopath with the attention span of a flea.”

“I’m sure Sinister has his reasons. He always does,” said Arclight.

“Doesn’t mean they’re good reasons…or sane reasons for that matter,” Harpoon argued.

“I never said they were. There’s a lot about this plan that rubs me the wrong way. I’ll be glad when it’s over so we can get what Sinister promised us. He says this will be our last mission. He may be a deranged son-of-a-bitch, but he’s a man of his word.”

“He better be,” said Blockbuster upon finishing the last round of heavy lifting.

The Marauders were almost done. The six smaller components were set up and ready for activation. Setting up Sinister’s machines was never terribly difficult. That was the benefits of having alien technology and he really pulled out all the stops with this one. They needed all the tech they could get if they were to pull this off.

Vulcan sensed their unease as he and the Goblin Queen worked on configuring the central console. He couldn’t blame them. Sinister was using some unorthodox tactics with this mission. Even as Sinister’s godson, he had his doubts. But they didn’t stop him from finishing this mission.

The Goblin Queen used her telekinesis to assemble the smaller pieces into the main component. She even had some of her goblin minions make several tweaks around the device. Vulcan focused primarily on the central panel where he launched a series of pre-programmed operations.

“The Warlock material you obtained from Genosha is working flawlessly, my love,” said Vulcan, “The core should be ready in less than ten minutes.”

“Marvelous,” she said flatly, “Sorry if I don’t sound as excited as I should.”

“You’re not going to start complaining about the cold as well, are you? That special coat with built in heaters should keep that beautiful body of yours plenty comfortable.”

“It isn’t the cold that bothers me…not entirely anyways,” said the Goblin Queen.

“I hope it’s not our dear Uncle. He wants this mission done so that’s what we’re doing.”

“It’s not the mission, Gabriel. It’s our dear uncle’s state of mind that concerns me,” she said, her tone becoming more serious, “I get that he’s distraught over Selene. I am too. What I don’t get is why he’s resorting to something like this. It feels too…final.”

“It’s not,” Vulcan pointed out, “You know our uncle as well as I do. Nothing is ever truly final. Everything is a process with him.”

“Which is why I’m so worried,” the Goblin Queen reasoned, “He’s treating this like an endgame. He never said it overtly, but I can feel it. You heard the order he gave shortly after we took off in the jet. He’s not even trying to hide his activities anymore.”

“It’s all for a purpose,” said Vulcan confidently.

“I’m sure it is. That doesn’t mean his purpose is rational.”

The Goblin Queen turned her attention to the central core. She recalled her goblin minions. Their work was nearly complete. This machine was ready. As she traced her hand along the advanced electronics, her worries escalated. This was beyond anything Sinister had ever attempted before. As always, he kept some of the details from them. Usually, that never bothered her. This time felt different.

“What do you think this latest gizmo does, Gabriel?” the Goblin Queen pondered, “Is this so-called Legacy program really going to affect the whole world?”

“I only know what you know. Project Legacy is about gathering data…a lot of data.”

“That’s what Sinister said. I’m wondering what it means.”

“Does it matter? He says once launched the genetic information from every human and mutant on the planet will be integrated into his network at the lab. Once he has that, he’ll have everything he needs to do what he needs to do.”

“It’s not what he’ll do with the data that concerns me. It’s the time-frame he’s working under,” replied the Goblin Queen, “He’s practically immortal. He can afford to be patient. So why is he doing this all at once? What is he willing to unleash to get everything he wants all at once?”

They were not unreasonable questions. Vulcan fell silent as he contemplated the possible answers. Their uncle had really changed since they lost Selene. He wasn’t just cold and calculating anymore. He was unstable. For a man of Sinister’s aptitude, that was very dangerous. They were already taking a huge risk with this mission and all the unusual quirks it entailed.

Before Vulcan and the Goblin Queen could discuss this any further, a powerful roar echoed from the clouds. It wasn’t the wind this time, nor was it the machines they were using. Through the blowing snow and high winds, the X-jet descended over the area. The rest of the Marauders saw it as well and rushed over.

“X-men!” grunted Blockbuster, “They’re late.”

“It would be an amazing first. Usually they show up at the worst possible time,” said Riptide.

“Does this mean what I think it means, Vulcan?” asked Arclight.

“It does,” said the oldest Summers brother as he gazed up at the jet, “It seems the X-men detected my little beacon.”

“I guess that file Sinister leaked to White Cell worked quite nicely,” said the Goblin Queen.

“These family issues were bound to come up sooner or later. It might as well be now,” said Vulcan.

The powerful mutant stepped ahead of the Marauders to confront the approaching X-jet. His eyes glowed brightly as the hatch opened and the X-men came out in full force. As expected, Cyclops led the charge. He rode a telekinetic bubble with Phoenix, Iceman, Beast, Storm, Gambit, Psylocke, Colossus, Shadowcat, and Thunderbird following behind. The X-men weren’t too thrilled to be confronting the Marauders and the Marauders weren’t too thrilled about facing the X-men either. However, Cyclops appeared more motivated than the others.

“GABRIEL!” shouted Cyclops, “It’s time we had a little brotherly chat.”

As I’ve stated before, it is entirely possible that this could be the final volume of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. I’m still going to write this final arc with the intention of leaving it open for future volumes. However, feedback on X-men Supreme has still been sluggish. While there are those who have supported this fanfiction series from its inception, the amount of that support has stagnated. I work long and hard to make sure X-men Supreme is sufficiently awesome and I can only know that I’m doing something right of people take the time to provide feedback. Please do so by contacting me directly or posting comments in each issue. I’m always happy to chat, especially after the recent revelations surrounding Mystique. I hope to make a decision by the end of this arc, but the readers of X-men Supreme will have a major influence. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!