Friday, October 20, 2017

Sexy Side-Project "The Red Queen Chronicles: The Divine" is LIVE!


If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started writing sexy side-projects, it’s that fans want their favorite characters to hook up with all sorts of characters. It doesn’t matter that it’s ridiculously non-canon. It doesn’t matter that it would never happen in the books either. Fans just love seeing certain characters get sexier than they’re allowed to be.

Since I started my “New Red Queen” series, I’ve gotten all sorts of suggestions for sexy hook-ups. Given that Mary Jane Watson, with all her amazing sex appeal, is at the center of the story, I expected to get plenty lurid requests for her. However, I didn’t expect to get so many for another fiery redhead, namely Jean Grey.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised, given all the uncut scenes I’ve done with her in my X-men Supreme series. After the events of “The Red Queen Chronicles: The Phoenix,” though, I’ve opened the proverbial floodgates. I’ve effectively unshackled Jean Grey-Summers from the traditional confines that has kept her fully clothed for too damn long. Apparently, there are a lot of Jean Grey fans who have been waiting for this sort of thing. Surprised or not, I’m going to run with it.

That’s why I’m proud to announce another sexy side-project of the most uncanny kind. It involves Jean Grey hooking up with someone she rarely encounters in the comics and being unapologetically sexy about it. She married Cyclops and flirted with Wolverine, but now that she’s the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, she’s going to set her sights higher. By that, I mean she’s looking for some truly divine sexiness from someone who just happens to have a big movie coming out.

Yes, I’m referring to the God of Thunder himself, Thor. He and Jean Grey have rarely shared a scene together in the comics, but that doesn’t matter in the world of the Red Queen Chronicles. Through this ambitious, but straightforward one-shot, these two characters you didn’t know you wanted to see hook up are going to get frisky. If this doesn’t get you excited for both the “Thor: Ragnarok” movie or “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” I don’t know what will.


As always, I encourage everyone to provide feedback and leave comments. I can’t promise I’ll pursue every sexy suggestion, whether it involves Jean Grey, Mary Jane Watson, or Squirrel Girl. I’m always open to new ideas, though, especially the sexy kind.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Most Worthy Milestone: The Mighty Thor #700

The following is my review of The Mighty Thor #700, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Whenever a comic reaches a major milestone, it seems obligated to do something big, flashy, and groundbreaking. More often than not, that can be more obstacle than opportunity. Obligation or not, these kinds of upheavals in a story cannot and should not be forced. That doesn't stop some from trying, but that also ensures the results will be mixed. That's exactly what makes The Mighty Thor #700 one of the most intriguing milestone issues of the past decade.

There's no need to force anything here. Jason Aaron has all the necessary pieces in place. What began several years ago in the final issue of Original Sin is set to culminate in The Mighty Thor #700. The concept of worthiness is now far beyond tired arguments of whether the Hulk, Superman, or Squirrel Girl can lift Mjolnir. It isn't just some mystical McGuffin meant to frustrate Thor, Odin, and all of Asgard, although it can come off as such.

Aaron often walks a fine line with Thor, one side being controversy and the other being contrivances. Jane Foster being Thor and wielding Mjolnir blurs that line to an extent that still bothers a certain segment of fans. However, even those fans can't deny the dramatic overtones that The Mighty Thor has conjured since Original Sin. It isn't just about a god struggling with unworthiness. It's about a dying mortal woman wielding the power of a god, knowing she's got little time left.

That time is exceedingly limited and The Mighty Thor #700 adds even more urgency for Jane Foster to make every swing of Mjolnir count. She's not the only one either. For a 50-page milestone issue, Aaron goes for broke by getting every corner of Thor's world involved and does so with an all-star cast of artists that includes the likes of Russell Dauterman, Walter Simonson, Oliver Copiel, and many more. That includes the past, present, and potential future of Asgard, Midgard, and everything in between. It's ambitious, but a worthy ambition befitting of any magic hammer.

There's a glut of material that touches on nearly every major player in Thor's world, from another major clash with Malekith to destructive fight with She-Hulk to a brief interlude with Frog Thor. All cards, including a few that haven't been played in a while, are on the table. They're all part of the same gamble to link every part of Thor's world into a singular conflict. That gamble doesn't necessarily hit the jackpot, but it does pay out in a lot of ways.

Despite all the many elements that find their way into The Mighty Thor #700, there are a few major connections to tie them together, some more so than others. Aaron digs deeper into the mythological foundations of Norse Mythology, literally to some extent, by setting the stage in Nornkeep. It gets even more literal as actual threads of fate start weaving various Thor-centered stories across the realms and across time.

These broad, diverse stories give a chance for every artist employed in this milestone issue to maximize their talent. Some utilize different themes, touching on the future of Thor and what lays in store for all those whose lives revolve around magic hammers. Others unfold in the present, which build on threads from previous issues leading up to The Mighty Thor #700. Some are colorful asides that don't add much to the overall plot, but belabor all things Thor in a way that feels necessary in an oversized issue.


This is where some of the ambition ends up overplaying the plot. Even though the connection of each plot has ties to the events in Nornkeep, those connections aren't always clear or concise. Some are so loose that it's hard to make sense of the role they play in the larger narrative. In addition, the scale of that narrative covers so many times, places, and hammer-centered battles that some end up feeling rushed. Even Jane Foster's battle against She-Hulk doesn't get the kind of elaborate smashing that most battles involving Hulk and Thor require.

Even with connections that are weak and rushed, at times, the direction of the story never gets derailed. Even after Frog Thor provides a little comic relief, the destination of each plot becomes clear. The conflict that begins in Nornkeep is set to spread through every realm, involving the likes of Maliketh, Loki, War Thor, and any number of divine forces that have been hit by Mjolnir one time too many. In that sense, the ambition serves to make The Mighty Thor #700 feel as epic as it needs to.

The worth of any milestone issue is measured in its ability to encompass the past, present, and future of a story. Given the size and scope of the story Aaron tells, The Mighty Thor #700 checks all the necessary boxes. There's a general sense, as well as a major teaser at one point, that the future of Thor is poised for upheaval. Jane Foster's battle with Hulks, gods, monsters, and cancer is about to culminate. Odinson is about to confront his agonizing unworthiness. Frog Thor is going to wade through some puddles. Everyone in Thor's world is poised to have their moment.

Ultimately, that's the most important aspect of any milestone issue. It should act like a catalyst and not an endpoint. It doesn't have to be a full-blown movie trailer, complete with heavy voice-overs and messy editing. It just has to make the journey thus far feel meaningful while making the journey ahead that much more appealing.

It may not have the loud explosions, coupled with heavy metal music, but The Mighty Thor #700 is plenty appealing in all the right ways. Worthiness may still be a hopelessly esoteric concept that fans will be arguing over on message boards for another 700 issues, but this one proves its worth, as only a Thor comic can.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, October 13, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 158: Power Brokers is LIVE!


These are exciting times for the X-men, both in the pages of Marvel Comics and within the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. I just returned from the New York Comic Con and, needless to say, I saw a lot of amazing things there. I even sat in on an X-men panel and got a glimpse of what the comics have in store. Between the return of Wolverine, the resurrection of Jean Grey, and the return of Charles Xavier, there’s a lot to get excited about. I hope to mirror that excitement in X-men Supreme.

That’s going to be difficult since I’ve resisted the urge to kill off so many iconic characters. It has happened, at times, such as in the Natural Disorder arc and at the end of Overlord. In my experience, there are more opportunities to explore great characters when they’re alive. I like to think I’ve done plenty of that in this fanfiction series, especially since X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided has put so many major characters in such difficult positions.

The X-men, still led by Charles Xavier, are trying to make their new partnership with President Kelly and General Grimshaw work. The results have been mixed thus far. The events of Volatility Sensibility cast doubt on the X-men’s ability to handle dangerous mutants alongside the government. The results in the Drug War arc proved more promising, so much so Charles Xavier could claim victory over Sebastian Shaw, a long-time enemy of the X-men who had been tormenting his team since the Phoenix Saga.

Over with X-Force, being led by Cyclops after he left the team, the situation is a lot more tenuous. They were failed where Xavier and his X-men succeeded in taking down Sebastian Shaw in the Drug War arc. Lacking both the resources and government support of the X-men, Cyclops and his team face a much tougher challenge. However, they remain convinced that Charles Xavier made a mistake by pursuing the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. In Cyclops’ mind, it’s only a matter of time before it comes back to haunt them all. As X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided unfolds, he’ll find out just how right or wrong he is.

While X-Force is recovering from their less-than-stellar performance in the Drug War arc, there’s another conflict that has been brewing since the end of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. While X-Force is operating out of Nova Roma, they’re also helping a displaced Scarlet Witch, who had been separated from the rest of the Brotherhood of Mutants after the events of the Proactive Regression arc. Her presence with X-Force has not gone unnoticed, especially by Nightcrawler. Both he and the Scarlet Witch have been developing an unusual bond since their encounter. Now, a new complication is about to enter the picture.

The conflict between the X-men and X-Force is going to be the primary catalyst for the story that unfolds in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. What happens with the Scarlet Witch, what happens with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative, and what happens with X-Force is all connected. There’s a big upheaval brewing in this fanfiction series, one that will become more and more apparent as the next few issues unfold. There are forces, agendas, and characters who have yet to debut in X-men Supreme that will change the course of this fanfiction series. This latest issue is just a step in that process.

X-men Supreme Issue 158: Power Brokers

These are exciting times for X-men fans, both for this fanfiction series and the X-men comics. So many iconic characters are returning. There are incredible stories unfolding in both the comics and in X-men Supreme. In the past, I’ve written this fanfictions as a reprieve, of sorts, for X-men fans who feel disillusioned by the events of the X-men comics. Well, now the situation in the comics is improving. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not as committed to making X-men Supreme as awesome as it can be. Now, I want this fanfiction series to complement the X-men comics as much as possible.

In order to maximize X-men Supreme and the impact of this fanfiction series, I still need feedback from readers. I’ve made some progress in limiting the spam, but I can still receive emails and I can still sift through comments. So please, if you can, take the time to review this fanfiction series. Either post your comments directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine and every bit of feedback helps. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Shaping A Sibling Rivalry: All-New Wolverine #25

The following is my review of All-New Wolverine #25, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


In many superhero comics, sibling rivalries are right up there with love triangles in terms of shallow plots that bring out the worst in certain characters. It's one thing for families to bicker. That's the premise of almost every sitcom, Simpsons rip-off, and Fantastic Four comic. Rivalries, however, often act like open scars that never truly scab over. They come to define certain characters, so much so that it that it undermines their ability to evolve on their own.

X-23 and Daken have a major advantage, in some respects, because much of their development occurs independently of one another. The story of Laura Kinney and Daken Akihiro unfolds in vastly different circumstances and go in very different directions. Whereas Laura eventually ascends to take on her father's mantel, Daken falls to the wayside for a while. Even after the Death of Wolverine, his story essentially stagnates while Laura's accelerates.

That's what makes the premise behind All-New Wolverine #25 so risky, yet so intriguing. Tom Taylor is taking a chance on tying Daken's story with Laura's once more. While they had clashed in the past during Marjorie Liu's run on X-23, these two characters don't ever establish a functional relationship. They don't forge a bitter rivalry either, but the tension is there. It has the potential to either expose their worst traits or forge new ones. The difference between the two is as thin as a simple swipe of the claws.


Taylor puts both characters on a collision course, of sorts, and it's one that doesn't just involve more slashing and stabbing. It builds on the events of the previous arc, which first see Laura and Daken reunite under dire, yet amicable circumstances. They never get a chance to catch up, fight each other, or address any of the past instances where they try to kill each other. A lot is left up in the air, but All-New Wolverine #25 offers new opportunities for Laura and Daken to connect. Doing it in a series that also includes a pet wolverine named Jonathan is just a nice bonus.

Taylor keeps the continuity of the series tight, having the events in this issue play off those of previous issues. Recent events don't play too big a part in the chaos that unfolds, though. After those connections are made, the fighting begins and it's not a fair fight, even for Daken. While he's a long way from deserving the same sympathy as Laura, the battle he faces sets a specific tone, one that feels unique to Wolverine's overly burdened offspring.

Part of being tied to Wolverine in any capacity involves attracting the kinds of enemies that require more than an adamantium claw to the face. His violent, illustrious life is full of super-powered samurai, killer robots, undead ninjas, and married women he can't stop attracting. With the exception of married women, Laura and Daken attract those same dangers. However, the specifics of that danger are only teased in All-New Wolverine #25, but not in the same overtly ominous ways that just promise more stabbing.

This is where the Orphans of X come in, which is both the title of the arc and the name of the danger. They establish early on that they know how to hurt both Daken and Laura. Daken is somewhat easy to hurt, given his crass attitude and utter apathy for regular heroics. It's Laura who requires a more elaborate approach. Having recently fought Brood armies and spent time in the stomach of Fing Fang Foom, her threshold for pain is much higher.

They still find a way to test it by taking Laura back to her roots. That means returning to the pages of X-23: Innocence Lost, the tragic origins that have come to define Laura since her arrival to the X-men comics. Despite all her abilities, including those that allow her to survive the stomach of Fing Fang Foom without permanent physiological scarring, the details of her tortured origins still haunt her.

More than any other threat she faces throughout her relatively brief history, it's one of the few things that really hurt her. The fact that the Orphans of X use that against her shows that they've done their homework on her. The use of a few flashbacks, which evoke just the right impact thanks to Juann Cabal's art, help belabor just how much these memories hurt Laura. They're so troubling that she risks upsetting both Gabby and her pet wolverine by striking out on her own. Given Gabby's capacity for frustrating Laura and looking adorable while doing it, that's a not a trivial risk.

It's not initially clear how much that risk pays off because, even though Laura's recourse is directly tied to what happens with Daken, the narrative stalls somewhat once it ventures into that the bloodier parts of her past. While belaboring a painful past is an important ingredient in any Wolverine story, it can be overdone. Instead of learning why the Orphans of X think it's wise to torment two characters with a history of poor anger management, much of the story unfolds as a mystery with too few clues to follow.

There's still plenty of melodrama, which is true to the spirit that Taylor has established with All-New Wolverine. There's never a sense that either Laura or Daken are just angry, vengeful brutes who are just eager to stab something. All-New Wolverine #25 establishes deep, personal stakes. However, it doesn't do much to establish who is making such risky bets against them.

The ending sets the stage for a lot more melodrama and heartache. The connections that will eventually require Laura and Daken to team up again are there. Given the high standards that Taylor has set with All-New Wolverine, though, the impact of the conflict isn't felt yet. Too much of it relies on old scars that Laura has been carrying with her since her days as an extra in the X-men Evolution cartoon. While those scars are sure to deepen, the Orphans of X will need to hit much harder to leave a lasting impact on Laura and Daken.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Joke's On Batman: Batman White Knight #1

The following is my review of Batman White Knight #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Between Marvel and DC Comics, there's a significant glut of alternate universes, alternate versions, and blatant rip-offs of various characters. When a character becomes as successful and iconic as Batman, it's somewhat unavoidable. For every iconic hero, there are a hundred more that are as much an afterthought as a typical storm trooper on Star Wars. For that same hero, there are plenty of other versions that attempt to milk the success of that icon to the utmost and beyond.

Batman is no stranger to derivations and alterations. Some, such as Terry McGuinness from Batman Beyond, find a way to be successful. Others turn into gimmicks, at best. However, none can every claim to have tried something as bold as Sean Murphy tries in Batman: White Knight #1. This story doesn't just tweak the winning formula that has made Batman so successful over the past 70 years. It turns it on its head, inside out, and everything in between.

Murphy dares to invert one of the most fundamental conflicts in the Batman mythos, namely that between him and the Joker. This struggle, which dates back to the earliest days of Batman, is the conflict that most defines him. His pursuit of justice is an unstoppable force, but the Joker's maniacal chaos is an immovable object. For decades, neither one of them seems able to subvert the other. Murphy decides to take that conflict a step further, so much so that changes the rules of the conflict entirely.

It's a concept that can either break new ground or collapse on itself. Batman: White Knight #1 walks a fine line with that concept, attempting to flesh it out without the aid of time paradoxes, lazarus pits, or meddling by Dr. Manhattan. When dealing with someone as deranged as the Joker, that counts as an accomplishment. However, by the end of the issue, it's not the Joker that seems deranged. It's Batman and that counts as an even greater accomplishment.

Murphy doesn't necessarily deconstruct Batman. He isn't driven crazy, broken spiritually, or manipulated with some elaborate mind game. Instead, the Joker simply puts himself in a position to point out the glaring flaws in how Batman conducts himself. It goes beyond any arguments around justice, chaos, or the comedic value of clowns. He dares to stand up to Batman and tell him, flat out, that he's the crazy one. He's the one who does far more damage to Gotham than any maniacal clown ever could.

It's a strange, but compelling argument. On paper, it doesn't check every box, but it's hard to overlook the signs. Batman is, as the Joker puts it, a catalyst for the crime and injustice that he claims to fight against. He doesn't see his efforts to fight criminals as an effort to improve Gotham. He sees it as some selfish ploy by Batman to fix a soul that was broken before the Joker ever introduced anyone to exploding pies. While he doesn't put too much substance behind the argument, it does highlight some glaring issues with Batman that even his most ardent defenders can't deny.


That argument makes the narrative of Batman: White Knight #1 engaging and nuanced. It comes off as a necessary and overdue criticism, of sorts, for Batman's methods and the extent to which the Gotham Police tolerate it. Beyond that argument, though, the particulars are somewhat underdeveloped. There are more than a couple contrivances that get squeezed into the story to make it work, primarily the method Batman uses to render the Joker sane enough to make these arguments in the first place. It's not the same as another chemical bath or a trick by Mr. Mxyzptlk, but it's not far off.

The ease with which the Joker tempts Batman and the apparent lack of effort Batman puts into resisting that temptation comes off as shallow. The complexities of Batman that are almost always on full display seem muted. While there is some context to Batman's shortsightedness, it relies too much on making excuses for his attitude rather than actually countering the Joker's arguments. The fact it's an excuse ripped from the Batman and Robin movie doesn't help either.

In addition, Batman: White Knight #1 doesn't attempt to flesh out the mystery surrounding the Joker's backstory, which has been a key element to his character since the days of Alan Moore. It essentially removes the mystery, giving the Joker a name, a method, and an identity behind the clown makeup. There's no shocking revelation or cosmic insight from the Mobius Chair. It's presented as something that could easily be gleaned from a quick Wikipedia search.

In some respects, though, removing the Joker's mystery is necessary for the story. It's the only way for him to really counter Batman on a personal and philosophical level. Once the clown makeup comes off, he somehow becomes more daunting because he no longer has insanity holding him back. Instead, he becomes a man who exposes the lies, jokes, and frauds without laughing at them. Take away that twisted sense of humor and it's not clear whether he's a villain or a hero at this point.

That's the greatest appeal of Batman: White Knight #1. It presents Batman with an existential crisis that doesn't involve deadly novelty gags, crippling close friends, or corrupting innocent souls. It calls into question the methods and justifications he puts into being Batman, as well as the price that others pay for his actions. In a sense, nobody has ever been either crazy or sane enough to attack Batman on this level. It's only fitting that the one person capable of that feat is the Joker.


Final Score: 7 out of 10

X-men Supreme Issue 158: Power Brokers PREVIEW!


The end of every major arc in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series tends to set the stage for the next one. The same thing occurs in the X-men comics. In the same way events like House of M set up the Messiah Trilogy, events like Uprising set up Overlord. I try to go into every arc with the intent of expanding and enhancing X-men Supreme, both in terms of the bigger picture and in terms of the characters involved.

The recent Drug War arc involved a potent mix of major conflicts and critical character moments. It wasn’t just about Sebastian Shaw attempting to build his influence and take advantage of the recent failures of Charles Xavier’s Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It was also about the X-men’s ongoing struggles to carry out Xavier’s dream when they’re so divided, having been split between Xavier’s new vision with the initiative and Cyclops’ opposition with X-Force. Both sides endured plenty of personal struggles, some more than others.

However, the biggest development in the Drug War arc came in the form of a character I’ve been planning to debut in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series at some point in Daken. I’ve actually been looking for an opportunity to bring Daken into the picture as far bac as X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear. Given the news of his upcoming return to the X-men comics, I feel the time is right for him to make his presence felt in this fanfiction series. He certainly got off to a promising start by betraying Sebastian Shaw.

Being the son of Wolverine is bound to come with a little baggage. In the X-men comics, it has gotten him into some pretty messy situations. It even got him killed for a while, which is somewhat typical of most X-men characters. Expect similar baggage in X-men Supreme, but also expect a slightly different origins. Like Sage, Thunderbird, and Bishop, there are some considerable differences between the versions in the X-men comics and those in this fanfiction series. Even with those differences, though, expect Daken to retain most of his quirks. Those who read X-men comics know what I’m talking about.

Beyond Daken’s debut, the Drug War arc brought a mixed bag of confrontations and progressions for X-men Supreme. While Sebastian Shaw was defeated and mutant growth hormone production was ceased, certain parts of that conflict remain unresolved. Charles Xavier and his X-men have regained some favor with President Kelly and General Grimshaw. X-Force is reeling, but not devastated by their recent setbacks. The situation is still tense and ripe for exploitation. With Daken in the picture, expect that to escalate very soon.

There are plenty of conflicts still brewing for the X-men and X-Force alike. A few have been escalating since the end of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. Both Charles Xavier and Cyclops have major challenges ahead of them, some more immediate than others. One of those more immediate challenges is about to attack them in the most literal sense of the word. After the battle against Shaw, the timing couldn’t be worse. As always, I’ve prepared a preview of just how challenging things will be for X-Force and the X-men.

‘I need to pull it together. And for once, I can’t rely on Jean’s support to help me. I never knew how much I depended on her until now. I can’t lead X-Force and be an emotional wreck. No matter how much I love her, this is bigger than either of us. Someone has to make a stand no matter how heart-wrenching it may be.’

Scott leaned against the window in a daze, trying hard not to think about all the ways Jean would make things better if she were with him. He could almost see her reflection in the window. It was too much for his heart to take. He had to shut it out. Like it or not, he had to do this without her.

‘One setback shouldn’t be this big a deal. X-Force is wounded, but still intact. The Mutant Monitoring Initiative was bound to make some progress. X-Force needs to make more. There’s a hidden subtext here that someone is missing. I keep looking for it, but I can’t find anything. The others are depending on me. With or without Jean Grey, I need to be better.’

The X-Force leader continued contemplating the many challenges he had before him. He clearly wasn’t going to find any answers in his current state of mind. He needed to rest or do something to clear his head. Regaining strength was the most important step in recovering from a defeat.

Letting out a tired yawn, Scott prepared turn in early for some much-needed shut-eye. Then as he made his way across the room, he heard some strange noises in the floors below him. They sounded like gunshots mixed with yelling. In his anxious state, Scott was in no mood for horseplay.

“Domino, you better not be doing that target practice drill with James again,” he shouted, “Warren’s pockets are deep, but even he gets tired of paying the repair bills.”

More noise followed. It quickly escalated as if the gunshots were on the move. Scott listened more intently as the commotion ascended the stairs. The X-Force leader instinctively retrieved his visor from a nearby table. Something about this didn’t sound like a training exercise gone wrong.

“So much for catching up on sleep tonight,” he groaned.

Scott prepared for the worst as he carefully approached the door. Before he was even halfway there, it burst open as a result of James Proudstar being thrown in like a rag doll. Scott immediately stepped back and aimed his visor at the door.

“Hnn…so how’s your night going, Scott?” groaned James.

“About as well as yours, it seems. What’s going on? Has our base been compromised?” asked the X-Force leader.

“Depends on your definition, big brother,” came a familiar voice.

Scott watched as a figure emerged through the now gaping hole in the wall where the door used to be. His eyes widened behind his visor as he watched his brother, Alex Summers, approach him. Behind him was Blob, who was clearly the one who threw James with such ease.

“Alex…how the hell did you find this base!” exclaimed Scott.

“You act as though there’s much to find,” laughed Blob, “No offence, but this is a hell of a downgrade compared to the mansion.”

“Cut him some slack, Freddy…as hard as that may be,” quipped Alex, “These aren’t the X-men. Let’s not treat them as such.”

Scott remained apprehensive as Alex approached. He didn’t come in with his usual aggressive demeanor. He casually stepped over James’s semi-conscious body and addressed his older brother.

“Spare me the outrage, Scott. I didn’t come here to fight for once,” said Alex.

“I’ll believe that when Blob here goes on a diet,” scoffed Scott.

“Wow, you have some crazy standards,” laughed Blob, “I told Alex this was a waste of time, but does anyone listen to the guy who considers a turkey a light snack?”

“It’s true, Scott. I don’t have the luxury of attacking you, even though you keep giving me plenty of reasons,” said Alex.

“If you’re going to say something that isn’t a snide remark, say it now! Otherwise, I’ll start taking my many frustrations out on you!” barked Scott.

“Boy, these X-Force guys are moody,” commented Blob, “At least they’re easy to toss around or I would be bored already.”

Blob cracked his knuckles to further dissuade Scott from further outbursts. He was prepared to hold the former X-leader down if necessary. He had to scrap those preparations when he heard gunshots coupled with the sting of bullets hitting him from behind.

“We’re not as easy as we look…or dress for that matter,” grinned Domino, who looked somewhat tattered but was still poised to attack.

“You?! Didn’t I throw you out a window?” groaned Blob as he turned around.

“I’ve been thrown out of worse,” she quipped, “Now what do you say, big boy? Care to see if your luck is as big as your waistline?”

She fired a shot that hit him right around his neck. It didn’t do much physical damage, but it still hurt. Now flushed with renewed anger, Blob prepared to attack Domino.

“Have fun with your brother, Summers! I’m going after the crazy bitch in the black spandex!” roared Blob.

“As if we don’t hear that enough from Pietro,” said Alex as he rolled his eyes.

Blob stormed out of the room through the hole he made with James. Domino led him out of the living room and back towards the staircase, leaving Scott to confront his brother one-on-one.

Over the commotion of more gunshots, Scott and Alex stared each other down. Scott was tempted to lash out at his wayward brother. He had breached X-Force’s base. He could compromise their whole operation. Yet that didn’t seem to be his intent. So with his hand still on his visor, Scott probed for answers.

“Okay Alex, you have my attention. I’m still inclined to shoot you, but that depends on what it is you have to say,” said Scott.

“I promise it’s worth hearing,” said Alex strongly, “It involves your recent trip to Mexico and how it went horribly wrong for some…and horribly right for others.”

“I already know that. Tell me something I can’t get from CNN!” he said.

“Okay, how about this…we discovered something about MGH that even Shaw wasn’t aware of. It’s something so big that you’ll quit being a dick and listen. This runs a lot deeper than the fight between humans and mutants.”


These are tense and divided times for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. At a time when the X-men comics are going in a different direction, even bringing back a few familiar faces from the dead, I’m determined to show that X-men Supreme can still deliver. These divisions have a purpose and that purpose will become clearer as this fanfiction series unfolds. As X-men fans follow the events in the comics, I hope X-men Supreme can continue to supplement the awesome.

To maintain the strength of that awesome, I need feedback from every kind of X-men fan. Even if you hated the last arc and the last several arcs before it, I want to hear from you. Any bit of feedback helps in my effort to make the X-men Supreme fanfiction series as awesome as it deserves to be. Either send it to me directly via the contact page or post comments in the issues, ignoring the spammers if you can. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelscior!

Jack

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Red Queen Chronicles: The Prodigy Part 2 is LIVE!


It’s been another long, eventful week, especially if you’ve been following the recent announcements from Marvel. I feel like I’m adding an extra layer of frosting by capping off another one of my sexy side-projects. It may not be a major part of Marvel’s legacy, but it involves Mary Jane Watson getting naked so that gives it inherent awesome.

This marks the second and final part of “The Red Queen Chronicles: The Prodigy.” The first chapter explored the past of Laura “X-23” Kinney within the context of this sexy AU I’ve created. Those who followed X-23’s story in NYX years ago should be familiar with the seamy details and understand completely why I incorporated them into this story. In a world where Mary Jane Watson is a former prostitute and queen of the Hellfire Club, how can I not?

This final part will bring X-23’s story to the present and set her on a better, sexier path within this world I’ve created. While I can’t say for certain whether I’ll revisit that path at some point, I’ll still try to make it as sexy as it deserves to be. If I end up getting as much, if not more, feedback as I’ve gotten with other stories, I’ll certainly be tempted. For a series like this, I think that’s quite fitting.


As always, I urge everyone who reads these sexy side-projects to comment and provide feedback. If you have sexy suggestions, I’m always open to discuss them. It’s that kind of feedback that has helped me keep my Red Queen series going for as long as it has. As I type this, I have plans for a couple more stories, one of which is already in the works. I won’t reveal what it is, but it involves a couple of characters hooking up that you’ll likely never see hook up in the comics. I’ll leave your dirty imaginations to ponder that for the next few weeks.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Past, Present, and Perspective: Marvel Legacy #1

The following is my review of Marvel Legacy #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Building a legacy is a long, tedious process that usually involves twice as many mistakes than it does successes. In some cases, a half-century of world-building is hardly enough to forge the kind of legacy that stands the test of time, changing writers, and retcons. For Marvel and the extensive world that continues to unfold after over 50 years of continuity, it's safe to say that its legacy has proven its worth. The world that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created decades ago is worth an entire workshop of Mjolnirs.

The legacy of the Marvel universe is often in flux with the times. There are all sorts of eras that vacillate from grim and dark to upbeat and optimistic. Events like Onslaught, Age of Apocalypse, and Civil War define and redefine what the world of Marvel stands for. Sometimes it takes years to appreciate way in which these events shaped Marvel's legacy. That will likely be the case with Marvel's latest legacy-shaping event, Secret Empire.

Being an event so controversial, coming at a time when all things related to fascism inspire Hulk-level outrage, the current legacy of Marvel is in a tenuous position. It's at one of those forks where it can either go down a dark, dire path or re-invent itself in a new, more positive light. These are uncertain times for Marvel and Marvel Legacy #1 is in a position to shape a new path, provide a sense of certainty, and showcase the strengths of top-level writing and artistic talent.

Jason Aaron, one of Marvel's top writers, and an all-star team of artists that include Esad Ribic, Russell Dauterman, Stuart Immonen, Ed McGuinness, and many more, have a chance to use Marvel Legacy #1 as a gateway towards the future of the Marvel universe. With so much talent to work with, the scope and scale of the story can be nothing short of awe-inspiring. While that bar may be impossibly high, Aaron and his all-star cast of artists come very close to matching and exciting it.

The structure of Marvel Legacy #1 is both fitting and overdue in that it revisits elements from Secret Wars that have been absent for years, namely those of the Richard family. In a sense, their presence acts as a reminder regarding what the greater Marvel universe is missing. To date, Marvel operates in a world where the Fantastic Four are no more, Thor is unworthy, the X-men's leadership is dead or time-displaced, and Steve Rogers is a secret Hydra agent. To say that legacy is on shaky ground is like saying the Hulk is moody.

Aaron doesn't try to fix all that in the span of a single issue. However, the story in Marvel Legacy #1 does establish links to the past, present, and future. It doesn't just provide hope that the missing elements of Marvel's legacy will return. It provides a potential mechanism. It doesn't just offer promises. It offers solutions that don't involve time machines, retcons, or deals with Mephisto.

The links to the past offer the most intriguing and complete part of the plot in that it establishes a period in the history of the Marvel universe that has major implications for the present. It takes familiar faces and forces like the Phoenix Force, the Iron Fist, and the spirit of the Black Panther and personifies them in a battle against a Celestial. That added personality gives greater weight to the events that unfold in the present.


Those events are a little less cohesive, though. Marvel Legacy #1 is understandably ambitious, attempting to jump around into multiple areas and explore a wide variety of elements throughout the greater Marvel universe. It touches on the Avengers, the X-men, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the remaining members of the Fantastic Four. It even tries to deal with the lingering aftermath of Secret Empire, from Steve Rogers' efforts to rebuild his credibility to the disillusion of SHIELD. There are so many elements to explore that the narrative gets downright erratic at times.


There's only so much Marvel Legacy #1 can address, but it manages to avoid Deadpool-level eccentricity. While the transitions from setting to setting aren't all that seamless, they never feel totally random or out-of-place. If anything, they feel like a succession of teaser trailers that offer glimpses into the near and distant future of the Marvel universe. Some are more subtle than others. Others, namely the ones involving Norman Osborn and Loki, offer a more overt hint. Certain characters, despite being actual gods, just aren't capable of such subtlety.

Beyond just the teaser elements, though, Marvel Legacy #1 adds some significant upheavals to the mix, namely by revealing the return of a certain grumpy Canadian that helped make Hugh Jackman a star. His appearance comes off as sudden, but it also comes with purpose. It feels like part of a larger story that's just beginning to unfold. In many respects, that's the core theme of the entire story. It doesn't just lay the foundation. It provides some very specific, very compelling building materials.

That's not to say every element is equally compelling. Some are underdeveloped and overlooked. Some aren't effectively linked to the larger narrative, but they still have a place in the greater legacy of Marvel so their presence never feels too random. That, in many respects, is the most revealing accomplishment of Marvel Legacy #1. It crafts a story in which everything feels connected on some level. While some connections are stronger than others, it still conveys the sense that Marvel has a vision and that vision is worth exploring.

While the Marvel universe seems to get redefined at least once a month, it's rare for a story to feel as large in scope as it's trying to be. Marvel Legacy #1 succeeds in conveying that feeling. From those disillusioned by Marvel's recent direction and enamored by its past, it offers something to latch onto. The fact it does all that without a time machine, clones, or magic spells makes it all the more astounding.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Friday, September 22, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 157: Drug War Part 3 is LIVE!


Sometimes, heroes like the X-men have to overcome bad situations in order to defeat a powerful foe. They’ve done it many times before throughout the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. They took down D’ken in the Outer Limits arc, Sinister in The Good, The Bad, and the Sinister, and Magneto in both Overlord and Uprising. Like all great heroes, the X-men find ways to rise to the occasion. Then, there are other times when the situations don’t just negatively affect them. They affect their enemies as well.

In the Drug War arc, the X-men are facing an enemy in Sebastian Shaw who leaves nothing to chance. After getting defeated, and impaled by Wolverine, in the Phoenix Saga, he’s a lot more cautious these days when it comes to fighting the X-men. Despite uncovering his plot in X-men Supreme Issue 154: Reaching Out with Mutant Growth Hormone, the X-men were already way behind the curve by the time they mobilized. Some of that is due to the X-men being divided after the events of X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide. Most of it, though, has more to do with Shaw’s cunning.

Right up into the previous issue of the Drug War arc, he seemed to have both the X-men and X-Force defeated. He even managed to turn Jubilee, who Sage tried to send in as a spy, into an enemy by dosing her with MGH. Between her and his allies in the Wyngarde sisters, he seems to have all the cards. Charles Xavier, Generation Grimshaw, and President Kelly can’t stop. Cyclops and his covert team, X-Force, can’t stop him. He had every opportunity to take this fanfiction series down a dark new road.

Then, the situation turned. A figure that X-men fans should recognize well, especially Wolverine fans, showed up and turned the tide against Shaw. His name is Daken. Who he is in the X-men comics is somewhat different than what he is in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, but there’s one key similarity. When he shows up, situations get messy and sometimes in a very literal way. That’s what the X-men, X-Force, and Sebastian Shaw are about to face.

His arrival is not as random as it seems. Daken is actually part of a plot that I’ve had brewing in the background for quite some time, going all the way back to events in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truth. He’s part of a story that can only have the biggest possible impact when Charles Xavier, Wolverine, and the X-men are at their most divided. The conclusion of the Drug War arc will set the stage. It will also add a major complication to the ongoing efforts of X-Force and the X-men. It’s hard enough dealing with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative when they just have corrupt businessmen like Sebastian Shaw to deal with. It’s quite another when they’re dealing with forces that involve Daken.

Wolverine’s son, the rise of Mutant Growth Hormone, and the impact it will have on the X-men and X-Force alike are just starting to unfold. The situation isn’t just going to get more complicated. It’s going to get personal. The Drug War arc won’t just mark a turning point. It’ll act as a catalyst for a much larger conflict that’s been waiting to pounce. The scope of that conflict should become somewhat clearer at the end of the issue.

X-men Supreme Issue 157: Drug War Part 3

So far, X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided has two arcs under its belt. Volatility Sensibility and Drug War each tested the divided X-men in ways they’ve yet to experience in this fanfiction series. It’s a different set of conflicts, even compared to those in the X-men comics. While X-men Supreme may be going in different directions, my commitment to making it awesome remains the same.

As always, I encourage everyone to provide feedback so I can be certain that this fanfiction series is sufficiently awesome. I especially need that feedback after a major arc like this. With Daken arriving soon, that level of awesome needs to be there. Either contact me directly or try to post it in the comments section. Either is fine. All support I get for X-men Supreme is supremely appreciated, regardless of how positive or negative it is. Thank you very much to all those who have taken the time to provide feedback. From the bottom of my hearts, I appreciate that. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Idols, Ideals, and Reminders: Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1

The following is my review of Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Whenever a fan meets their icon, there's usually an unpleasant moment when the fan makes a stunning realization. Their idol, for all the hopes and dreams they embody, is still human. They make mistakes, they get hurt, and they become corrupted by a situation. For overly passionate fans, it can be pretty devastating, finding out that an idol has those flaws. It's often a harsh lesson in the real world, which tends to crush idealism the same way the Hulk crushes compact cars.

Since her inception, one Kamala Khan's biggest appeals is that she's an unapologetic superhero fangirl. She sees superheroes through the same rosy prism as kids and fans. To her, they are icons who embody certain ideals. Before she gets her powers and dons the title of Ms. Marvel, that perspective is pure and untainted by the harsh circumstances of life. Then, she gets her powers and Civil War II happens. Suddenly, her idol isn't very heroic anymore. If anything, she's too human to wield that title.

Kamala's world is shaken, but not broken. She still calls herself Ms. Marvel. She still tries to be the kind of hero she idolizes. In both her solo series and books like Champions, those efforts tends to yield mixed results most of the time. It seems every battle she faces brings her that much closer to losing that sense of idealism that defines her character.

That's what makes Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1 so timely and relevant. It gives G. Willow Wilson a chance to reconnect Kamala with a younger, less compromised version of Carol Danvers. She gets to interact with a version of her idol that is not compromised by the events of Civil War II. It's her chance to re-learn and possibly re-define her understanding of a hero.

Wilson puts her in a position to do that and then some. Kamala, whose perspective acts as both necessary narration and witty banter, finds herself in a similar position as other characters who taken part in Marvel Generations. Through the Vanishing Point, she ends up in the past during a time when Carol Danvers is on nobody's list to headline a major crossover event. She's still Ms. Marvel, a hero who is still trying to prove that she belongs on the same level as Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and everyone else who goes onto be part of a billion-dollar movie franchise.

Whether by chance or McGuffin-style workings of the Vanishing Point, Kamala finds herself joining Carol in this effort and not just in terms of fighting alien invaders. Through a setup that doesn't entirely make sense, but still works, she becomes an intern at Woman Magazine where Carol works. It's a unique period in Carol's story it's a time when she tries to build more of a civilian life, like the Peter Parkers of the world. While it may be a doomed effort to anyone with alien DNA, it's an important context for both Kamala and the story of Ms. Marvel, as a whole.

In a sense, it shows Carol trying to do what female superheroes and real women alike struggle to do. She's trying to have it all, being both Ms. Marvel and Carol Danvers. It's a struggle Kamala herself deals with every other issue and Wilson rarely lets her catch her breath. It's also a struggle that Carol doesn't really deal with as Captain Marvel, but that struggle still shapes her story. Making Kamala, the future Ms. Marvel, a part of that story gives it even greater meaning.

Unlike some of the other stories that unfold in Marvel Generations, Wilson takes a more personal approach to Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1. It's not just about Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers fighting alien invaders and working with J. Jonah Jameson without going insane. The story of Kamala sharing her perspective with Carol and seeing her idol outside the context of Civil War II makes the story feel personal. It effectively circumvents the tension between the two characters in the present and shows that they both share a legacy.

In terms of Kamala's personal story, it's a critical insight. It doesn't necessarily re-define her understanding of what it means to be Ms. Marvel as it does remind her of why that title matters to her. Throughout the story, her thoughts reveal her various sentiments towards Carol Danvers. She's still an icon in her eyes, but she doesn't ignore how she has been functioning without her idol since Civil War II. That doesn't stop her from joining her struggle.

Being part of that struggle helps Kamala overlook some of the things that shattered her idealistic view of Carol Danvers. In a sense, that's a major oversight and a missed opportunity. By not digging deeper into the reasons why Kamala distances herself from her idol, the story in Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1 doesn't accomplish as much as it could have. It also mutes the potential drama that helped make other iterations of Marvel Generations so meaningful.

In addition, it doesn't help that the flow of the narrative is a bit messy at times. There's a couple instances where there are no obvious transitions from one scene to another. On one panel, Kamala walking the streets of Midtown Manhattan. The next, she's at the Daily Bugle being yelled at by J. Jonah Jameson. Granted, Jameson rarely needs a transition to yell at someone, but it makes the story feel choppy at times. Even with Paolo Villanelli's vibrant art that highlights Ms. Marvel's distinct style, the story never comes off as very concise.

It still manages to accomplish something important for Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers' story. It effectively ties their ongoing struggles with one another. Carol is trying to have it all as both Carol Danvers and Ms. Marvel. Kamala is doing the same thing in her time. It's an ongoing struggle for both, but working together in Generations: Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel #1 gives them both some needed perspective. They even earn praise from J. Jonah Jameson along the way and in the context of the greater Marvel universe, such an accomplishment ranks right up there with beating Thanos.


Final Score: 6 out of 10

Friday, September 15, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 157: Drug War Part 3 PREVIEW!


It’s one thing for the X-men to battle a cunning enemy like Sebastian Shaw when they’re at full strength. It’s quite another when they have to fight that battle when divided. X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided began by establishing the extent of that division. This fanfiction series took a fateful turn in X-men Supreme Issue 148: New Divide. The team that had been united against the likes of Sinister, Magneto, and the entire Shi’ar Empire is fractured. Charles Xavier’s bold, but controversial efforts with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative triggered it. Now, both the X-men and X-Force are feeling the full impact.

The struggles in Volatility Sensibility were just a precursor. Sebastian Shaw, who has done plenty to leave his mark on this fanfiction series going back to the Phoenix Saga, is taking full advantage in the divisions of the X-men and the reservations many still have with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. One mutant, Beak, already fell victim to his influence in X-men Supreme Issue 153: Revolting Youth. Now, Jubilee and the Five Lights, characters that some X-men fans remember well, take it a step further.

The Drug War arc is the first real instance where Charles Xavier and his X-men deal with one of their major enemies exploiting the situation created by the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. It was only a matter of time. Bold actions always triggers bolder reactions. The X-men experienced that after the election of President Kelly and the arrival of General Grimshaw. However, they’ve never encountered a battle like this. What happens may very well determine the fate of the initiative, the X-men, and mutants, as a whole.

There have already been plenty of complications, some of which will have a major influence on future events within this fanfiction series. If you read the end of X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2, you already know what and who I’m talking about. It has already disrupted Sebastian Shaw’s plans. It’s about to disrupt much more than that. Jubilee and the Five Lights are still under his influence. Chimera still has X-Force pinned down. There’s still the issue of Mutant Growth Hormone. Like dangerous drugs in the real world, it’s a problem that can’t be uncreated.

There’s only one issue left in the Drug War arc. It’s the biggest arc in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided to date. It’ll also mark the first turning point in the struggle between the X-men and X-Force. If you want to know where this fanfiction series is heading, this is an issue you don’t want to miss. As always, I’ve prepared a preview of this defining battle that will shape the course of X-men Supreme.

“So c-c-cold. Even for a R-R-Russian,” grunted Colossus as he tried to divert Idie’s ice blast.

“Go, Teon! Break him!” urged Idie.

“FIGHT!” roared Teon as he moved in and attacked with a punishing right cross.

Colossus went up to block the attack. This time when Teon struck his arm, he felt a distinct snap. Even through his metal skin, the bones and flesh beneath broke in a way that put him in a world of pain.

“ARRRRGGGHHHHH!” exclaimed the Russian.

“My heavens…she made his metal skin brittle,” gasped Beast, who was trying to escape Kenji’s tentacles, “Hang on, my friend! I will assist you!”

“You’ll watch him suffer and hate every moment of it,” seethed Kenji.

Beast had been using his agility to avoid being completely smothered like Rogue and Storm. Upon seeing Colossus’s injury, he attempted to leap out of his swarm of tentacle appendages completely. That ended up being a poor decision.

Before he was even a few feet off the ground, Kenji’s tentacles slithered around his feet and pulled him back. Beast ended up falling flat on his face, allowing Kenji to completely encase him. Beast could only watch as Colossus writhed under Teon and Idie’s menacing presence. He was then pulled up into the air so that he was suspended next to Rogue and Storm.

“Welcome to the club, Beast. Uncomfortable yet?” said Rogue dryly with only her face showing through the tentacles.

“It’s not the most awkward position I’ve been in, but it’s close,” grunted Beast as more of Kenji’s tentacles wrapped around him.

“Any chance you could lend a hand to myself or Colossus, Storm?” asked Beast, “I know you’re in a tight spot, but we could use some help from Mother Nature.”

“I’m…trying,” grunted Storm, who was very short of breath, “This boy…not letting me concentrate. Can’t-mmf!”

Storm was silenced by one of Kenji’s tentacles shoving itself right into her mouth. It rendered her even less inclined to summon any help from the weather. It was Kenji’s way of proving that he was in control.

“My collection is growing,” seethed Kenji from within his oversized humanoid form, “Once I have your friends, I shall make your deaths my greatest masterpiece!”

“Hnn…if this is your brand of art, you’re even sicker than you look,” grunted Rogue.

“Belittling our adversaries is only making it worse, Rogue,” said Beast as he felt the tentacles around him tighten.

“Errr! Got a better idea?” said Rogue, getting short of breath as well, “Where in the heck is Captain Freeman? Ah thought he-mmf!”

Rogue was silenced just as Storm had been. Kenji forced one of his tentacles into her mouth to shut her up, leaving her at his mercy.

“No ideas will save you now,” scoffed Kenji, “We are the Lights of the Inner Circle! We are linked by a power you cannot possibly understand! You can never hope to…”

“KENJI LOOK OUT!”

The Japanese mutant was cut off by an unexpected cry from above. Kenji was so focused on keeping Beast, Rogue, and Storm restrained that he didn’t notice an ominous shadow passing over him. When he looked up, he saw the large figure of Laurie spiraling out of control.

On her back was Captain Freeman, who was using the dragonfly-like wings she formed to direct her chaotic descent. He directed her right into the chest of the oversized creature Kenji had created. That was also the area where Kenji himself resided. From within this hulking monstrosity, his eyes widened as Laurie crashed into him head on.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” they both yelled out.

The impact that followed caused much of Kenji’s large form to scatter like wet mud. The humanoid figure he form dissolved as his amorphous form mixed with Laurie’s. As they tumbled roughly to the ground, the many tentacles Kenji formed dissolved. That freed Rogue, Storm, and Beast from their confines. As they fell to the ground, Captain Freeman was there to meet up with them. Having leapt off Laurie’s back before she and Kenji collided, he rushed to their aid.

“Sorry I’m late guys. That crazy fish girl was a fighter,” said Captain Freeman as he and Beast helped Storm stay upright.

“No worries, Captain. Your timing was impeccable,” said Beast.

“I would have preferred it to be a few moments earlier,” said Storm, still coughing up pieces of dissolved tentacle.

“I’ll work on that for future missions,” assured the Green Beret, “But first, I plan on ending this mission on a high note!”

The mutant soldier earned some much-needed credibility with this latest stunt. Storm and Beast were more inclined to believe him. However, these six mutants weren’t going to make it easy for him.

“The only thing you’ll end is your life!” seethed Jubilee,  now flying towards them at high speeds, “I’ll make you wish Kenji had crushed you!”

In her blind rage, Jubilee formed another glowing ball of energy in her hands. Without taking careful aim, she unleashed it right towards them. Captain Freeman prepared to shield Storm and Beast with his adaptive form. This time, though, he didn’t have to.

Rogue came rushing in from the side and stepped in front of the incoming blast. But instead of just absorbing it, she punched it with her enhanced strength. That caused the ball of energy to fly right back towards Jubilee. Since she was going so fast, she couldn’t avoid it. When it struck, it sent her flying in the other direction.

“What the-UNGH!” she exclaimed.

“Sorry Ah had to do that Jubes, but that pal of yours left a nasty taste in mah mouth. Ah had to take it out on someone,” said Rogue as she rubbed her fist.

“Thanks, Rogue. It’s good to know you’re still pissed off enough to fight,” said Captain Freeman with a grin.

“Ah don’t care if it is Jubilee and a bunch of kids. They’re playmates with Shaw. Someone’s gotta give them a timeout,” she said strongly.

Now more emboldened they turned their attention to Gabriel, Idie, and Teon. The sudden shift in the battle hadn’t gone unnoticed, either. The X-men weren’t as disorganized or inept as they expected. They continued undermining the Inner Circle. This could not stand. Their king and queen wouldn’t allow it.


There’s a lot I want to accomplish with the Drug War arc. The big reveal at the end of X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2 has already set the stage for the next major upheaval in this fanfiction series. Given the events and twists of the recent X-men comics, I think the timing is perfect. Some of that wasn’t planned, on my part, but I have tweaked some of those plans accordingly for reasons I hope will become obvious.

X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided is the most ambitious entry of this fanfiction series to date. I knew before I wrote the first issue that I was going to be upsetting some X-men fans with my decisions. I’ve heard some of those concerns in the feedback that I’ve gotten. To those readers, I urge you to trust my vision. There is a payoff and it will come. Even before that point, though, I need plenty of feedback to ensure that payoff is as awesome as it can possibly be. Either contact me directly with your comments or ignore the spam and post your comments directly in the issue. Either way is fine, but contacting me will probably be more efficient for now. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Titles, Legacies, and Basics: Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell #1

The following is my review of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


The story of one hero taking on the mantle of another is one of the most controversial stories that can be told, albeit for all the wrong reasons. No matter how great or terrible that story actually is, there will always be a certain contingent of fans who are ardent traditionalist. To them, Batman must always be Bruce Wayne. Steve Rogers must always be Captain America. Peter Parker must always be Spider-Man, preferably a version not foolish enough to make deals with Mephisto.

There's nothing anyone can do to placate those fans, short of ending the story permanently and letting them fume in their own little world of utopian nostalgia. Since that's not a very interesting story, Marvel Generations is doing the next best thing by adding depth and connections between the heroes of the past and the heroes of the present. The titles may be the same, but the characters, context, and narrative are very different. The only thing that doesn't change is the incessant whining by the ardent traditionalists still arguing why Gwen Stacy should come back.

Regardless of how ardent certain fans may be, most tend to agree that certain characters can benefit from that added depth more than others. At the moment, few characters are need of that depth more than Carol Danvers. Through the masterful efforts of writers like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Carol ascends to a level of prominence that makes her the closest thing Marvel has to Wonder Woman. The fact she takes the title of Captain Marvel in the process is almost secondary. Then, Civil War II happens and suddenly, she's the most controversial non-clone character in all of Marvel.

That makes the stakes in Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 that much higher. Margaret Stohl already has a daunting task as the writer of Mighty Captain Marvel, which attempts to rebuild Carol's status as Marvel's premier female hero after Civil War II. The events of Secret Empire and Marvel Legacy put her in a position to recapture some of those elements that make Captain Marvel a title that anyone of any gender would be proud to have.


Part of that effort involves taking Captain Marvel back to basics, none of which involve superhero politics, visions of the future, or arguments about how long Carol's hair should be. Instead, Carol finds herself in the middle of an war in the Negative Zone that involves an unfamiliar race of aliens, a familiar threat in Annihilus, and her old mentor, the original Captain Mar-Vell. It has all the ingredients to bring out the best in Carol Danvers. It won't settle debates her hair, but even Captain Marvel's power can only go so far.

That power is enough for her and Mar-Vell to carry out the feats for anyone wielding that title. As with previous issues of Marvel Generations, there's not a whole lot of context surrounding the Vanishing Point. There really doesn't have to be. Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 is a bit more concise in that it establishes a clear connection between the events in this story and those of Secret Empire #10. That approach allows Carol to hit the ground running within a chaotic, sci-fi heavy alien war that maximizes Brent Schoonover's colorful art style. Compared to the bleak circumstances of Secret Empire, it's pretty refreshing.

The same can be said about Carol's interactions with Mar-Vell. Much of it is built around over-the-top sci-fi action, but that's fairly in line with their history. Whatever their titles, both characters define themselves by their alien connections. It's a big part of how the connection they forge. The events of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 occur before that connection really blossoms, but it establishes that these two characters share more than a title.

In between battles against aliens and arguing with a race that isn't used to these kinds of battles, there's a fair amount of drama between the two characters. They both have different styles. Carol is more hot-headed and impulsive. Mar-Vell is more cunning and diplomatic. There are times Carol's approach proves effective. There are times when Mar-Vell's approach works as well. It creates tensions, but it's the productive kind of tension. That may seem shocking in an era where tensions between superheroes serve as the basis for every other major event at Marvel, but Stohl shows how it can work.

Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell wield the same title, but are effective at honoring that title in their own unique way. They both say they work alone, but it's only when they use those ways together that they prove most effective. It comes off as a lesson that both characters need to learn. In Carol's case, it's a lesson that's worth re-learning, given her recent missteps among her fellow superheroes. It gives the impression that Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 leaves Carol in a better place, as a character.

In that sense, the overall story has both the basics and a sense of purpose. It feels complete in the sense that it has a relevant impact on both Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell. There are some shortcomings, in terms of details. The story does drag, somewhat, in a few areas. Even with sci-fi settings and a major threat like Annihilus, it never feels as epic as other memorable space battles. Some of that may be due to the restrictions of the Vanishing Point. Like other issues of Marvel Generations, it can only do so much before the timeline snaps back into position.

Whatever limitations there are on the premise of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1, Stohl and Schoonover get the most out of it for the characters involved. By getting back to basics for anyone bearing the title of Captain Marvel, it demonstrates that there is a legacy to that title and one that's worth upholding. Whether or not Carol uses that legacy to improve her standing within the Marvel pantheon remains to be seen, but between gaining a better perspective and taking her frustrations out on Annihilus, she's in a much better place now.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Red Queen Chronicles: The Prodigy Part 1 is LIVE!


Summer is over, but I'm not done heating panties or triggering awkward boners in public places. That's right. I have another sexy side-project and even if you've put your bikini away, this should still make you feel hot all over for all the right reasons. You're welcome.

Once again, I've been amazed with the feedback I've gotten for my "Red Queen" series. It's hard to believe that this all started with just some twisted little story I did about Mary Jane being a prostitute in an AU that involved no deals with Mephisto. I never intended to expand that story as much as I have, but between the feedback I've gotten and all the new ideas it has inspired, I just keep building on it.

I like to think I've set a sexy foundation on which many sexy stories can be told. I've already told quite a few, some more elaborate than others. I've tried, for the most part, to give them some semblance of plot. I understand that's not the primary reason people read these sexy side-projects, but I think a little plot goes a long way towards adding to the sex appeal. This latest project is no exception.

With it, I'll actually be exploring some other aspects to this sexy AU I've created. Specifically, it digs a little deeper into Mary Jane's history as a prostitute. That history will lead her to meet up with a character whose prostitution history is actually canon in Laura "X-23" Kinney. She's always been a favorite of mine. As soon as I began expanding this series, I knew I would get to her sooner or later. It turned out to be sooner.

This story will be a two-part story. It'll explore the past and expand on the present in ways I hope will moisten panties and stain boxers. The first one is officially up. Given how quickly X-23's star has risen in recent years, I think the time is right for her to gain a little sex appeal.


As always, I strongly encourage everyone to provide feedback for this story. I've already gotten far more than I ever expected with this series. The more I get, the more incentive I have to keep growing this series. I hope this one continues that sexy tradition. Mary Jane may not need more sex appeal at this point, but a little more could never hurt. Nuff said!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Building (and Tinkering with) a Legacy: Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1

The following is my review of Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


When a new character takes on the legacy of an older one, the greatest challenge is making that transition seem fitting and meaningful. It helps when the older character has a sizable network of friends, family, and side-kicks in the wings, ready to carry on that legacy in a way that feels like a true extension of the story. This is how Batman's legacy can continue whenever Bruce Wayne is MIA, whether it's through Dick Grayson, Terry McGuinness, or the occasional robot.

Unfortunately for the legacy of Iron Man, Tony Stark isn't as keen on side-kicks and family. Throughout his history, he tends to monopolize all things Iron Man. At times, he gives the impression that he only tolerates War Machine because he doesn't use a title or color scheme that undermines his brand. He's akin to a musician who doesn't mind people doing goofy parodies of his music. That may be an effective way to control a legacy, but it does create issues once Tony is unavailable. With no Robin or even a Bucky Barnes waiting in the wings, Iron Man's legacy is especially vulnerable.

That makes the task Brian Michael Bendis undertook in creating Riri Williams all the more daunting. He doesn't have the time or capacity to create the kind of built-in legacy that Batman has. He has to put Riri in this role of filling in for Tony Stark with next to no build-up or dramatic underpinnings. Riri just happens to be in the right place at the right time when Tony Stark goes down in Civil War II. It's the kind of happenstance that can only come at Marvel where Cosmic Cubes, deals with Mephisto, and the Scarlet Witch going crazy constantly skew the odds.

With Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1, Bendis has a chance to forge a greater personal connection between Tony Stark and Riri Williams. In a sense, that sort of connection is overdue because even in his AI form, Tony acts more as a guide than a mentor to Riri. The lack of any deeper undertones still creates the impression that Riri's role is forced and contrived. Creating a more personal connection can help mitigate that impression.

Bendis makes that effort and even tries a different approach, compared to previous iterations of Marvel Generations. Whereas the other stories have taken characters to the past, he takes Riri to the future. That's somewhat more practical, given the inherent themes of futurism in Iron Man. However, pragmatics only go so far. When it comes to actual substance, the story falters and only ends up highlighting the reasons certain fans complain about Riri in the first place.

By taking the story to the future instead of the past, she ends up in a very different world, compared to the one she comes from. This is inherently an issue for her character because so much of her story is tied to her situation in the present. Her family, being from Chicago, and stumbling through the growing pains of being a hero are part of what makes Riri's story compelling. None of that is present in Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1. That leaves Riri isolated and only highlights some of her less flattering traits.

From the moment she arrives in the future, Riri basically acts as her own narrator. It tries to come off as cute and awkward, as is often the nature of teenagers, but it just comes off as annoying and self-centered. She doesn't say or ponder anything that isn't depicted by Marco Rudy's skilled art. When she encounters familiar-looking heroes from the future, including a next-generation Avengers team and a 126-year-old Tony Stark, who also happens to be the Sorcerer Supreme, the moment falls flat. For overly-emotional teenagers, that just goes against the laws of physics.

That's not to say Riri is cold in the story. She does make it a point to hug Tony when she gets the chance. However, that's pretty much the extent of the connection they forge. It's also the extent of the drama in the story. There's no epic battle. There's no shared struggle. One is teased, but goes absolutely nowhere. There's no point where Riri really works with Tony, thereby gaining a better understanding of what it means to be Ironheart. She basically just sits back, watches, and gets a crash course in how great the future is.

While that sort of techno-utopian ideology is a key component to Iron Man, Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1 doesn't present it in a very compelling way. It's mostly done through Tony Stark talking, Riri Williams reacting, and everyone else just shrugging their shoulders. It's as compelling as it sounds. There aren't any moments of real struggle with Riri. She's basically just a guest passing through and not much else. Her passing out when she first arrives is the most she does to move the story forward.

That's not to say there's no overall impact for Riri. Seeing the future and all the beauty that Rudy's art can depict leaves an important impression. It shows that the future she, Tony, and all things Iron Man are trying to build is worth building. That's a meaningful impression, but one that doesn't need to be belabored in an Iron Man comic, which is built on the very premise that a better future can be built. Riri's story already involves plenty of future-building so the impression comes off as redundant.

Bendis has many opportunities to craft a more meaningful connection between Riri and Tony in Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart #1. Few, if any, of those opportunities pan out. Riri still comes off as an annoying teenager who basically stumbles to success at every turn as Ironheart and Tony comes off as overly coy with his ego. The story succeeds at capturing the futurism themes inherent of most Iron Man stories, but that's all it succeeds with. For someone as capable as Riri Williams and Tony Stark, that's just too low a bar.


Final Score: 4 out of 10

Friday, September 1, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2 is LIVE!


When it comes to humans and mutants, there are few ways to make some things easier and infinite ways to make everything harder. The X-men seem to learn this every week in the comics. They learn those lessons just as often in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Magneto has certainly made the X-men’s efforts difficult in arcs like Uprising and Overlord, creating plenty of fear and hatred to undermine the peace and understanding that Charles Xavier is trying to promote. At least Magneto has a dream of his own. Some of the X-men’s foes are far more selfish and far more devious.

That describes Sebastian Shaw to the letter. He’s already made quite a mark in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. When he wasn’t busy corrupting the Phoenix Force in the Phoenix Saga, his son was laying the groundwork for programs like Weapon Plus. Despite being severely wounded by Wolverine, he managed to make a comeback in the Dark Legacy arc. Now, he’s ready to exploit the divisions in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. Being a ruthless businessman, he’s found his opportunity in Mutant Growth Hormone.

What X-Factor discovered in X-men Supreme Issue 153: Revolting Youth was just the tip of the iceberg. This potent drug, which has its roots in the X-men comics, has the potential to create more complications than even Magneto could’ve inspired. This doesn’t just augment mutant powers. It can take ordinary mutants like Beak, who have no interest in taking a side with Magneto or Charles Xavier, and turn them into monsters. In terms of making things harder for the X-men at a time when they’re so divided, Shaw’s timing and cunning couldn’t be worse.

He’s already exploiting the X-men’s divisions. The Drug War arc has established that, like the X-men comics, Sebastian Shaw has a great many resources and manpower at his disposal in this fanfiction series. He’s poised produce vast quantities of MGH. How this serves his agenda has yet to be revealed, but the X-men and X-Force can’t afford to find that out the hard way. They need to stop him. Unfortunately, the circumstances in X-men Supreme are not in their favor.

Being divided and desperate, the X-men took a bold chance and sent Jubilee to infiltrate Sebastian Shaw’s operation. Along the way, she met a young group of mutants that X-men fans should recognize from Generation Hope. In the comics, they were the Five Lights. In the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, they are just five mutants who seek better opportunities than the ones laid out to them by the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. Their desperation is Sebastian Shaw’s gain.

Both the X-men and X-Force are now on the front lines, but after the events of Volatility Sensibility, the margin for error is painfully small. Both teams have already struggled to operate on their own and have shown no ability to set aside their differences, even in the face of a threat like Sebastian Shaw. Failure at this point will make for some dire consequences for the future of X-men Supreme. That future is already bleak as the battle in Drug War is set to escalate.

X-men Supreme Issue 156: Drug War Part 2

This is going to be a messy battle for the X-men and X-Force, alike. These are messy times for the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, as a whole. I know that’s very different from what’s going on in the X-men comics right now. Believe me, I didn’t plan it that way when I laid out the story for X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. I get that many X-men fans are tired of schisms and civil wars. However, I still want to make this fanfiction series feel relevant, even as events in the X-men comics change.

As always, that means your feedback and comments are critical. Please, if you can, take the time to review this issue and any others that you’ve been following. Every bit of feedback helps and every bit of criticism helps ensure that X-men Supreme is as awesome as it deserves to be. Either post your comments directly in the issue or contact me directly. Please don’t mind the spam in the comments section. It may just be easier to contact me for now. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack