Friday, August 18, 2017

Sexy Side Project: Red Queen Chronicles: The Surprise is LIVE!


If you thought I was done telling sexy stories in my “Red Queen” universe, then I’m NOT sorry to say you’re wrong. Every time I finish a story, it feels like I’ve exhausted the potential. It feels like I’ve extracted enough sexiness from this concept. Then, I remember I’m working with Mary Jane Watson and remember there’s no limit to the sexiness she can bring.

My last story, “The Red Queen Chronicles: The Alien,” was another fun little exercise in exploring Mary Jane’s sexiness. Her sex appeal is so powerful that she could do what Spider-Man could not and that’s subdue Venom. She didn’t need superpowers, science, or some boring shit like that. She just needed raw, unabashed sex appeal. Venom didn’t stand a chance.

Between that and the various other stories I’ve told in the Red Queen universe, I’ve developed quite a few loyal readers. Some come at me with all sorts of suggestions, many of which I couldn’t possible use, but enjoy contemplating. Even with all those ideas, I wasn’t sure whether there was one worth pursuing. Then, I came up with one that I felt I could complete to the high standards that Mary Jane has established.

This one, sadly, will only tap a fraction of Mary Jane’s sexiness. That’s because she won’t be the primary focus of this story. Instead, it’s Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers who will get to flaunt her sex appeal. Her star has been rising fast in recent years. Between a greater role in the comics and an upcoming movie starring Brie Larson, she’s well on her way to becoming Marvel’s alpha female.

So why shouldn’t she get in on the action? That’s exactly what she’s going to do, with help from the Red Queen, of course. She might as well get laid while she can before she becomes too busy. If you’re okay with Mary Jane sharing some sexiness for the time being, I think you’ll appreciate this. Fans and members of the Carol Corp, I hope you enjoy it!


I know I seem to say this every other week, but I’m still not sure whether I’ll keep building on this series. I can’t help it that writing a sexy Mary Jane Watson is so much fun. I still have ideas I’m toying with. Nothing has been finalized yet, but if that chances, expect plenty more sexiness. Nuff said!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Legacy, Family, and Ninjas: Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1

The following is my review of Generations: Wolverine and All-New Wolverine #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


The concept of family and legacy tends to get obscure in the Marvel universe. That's to be expected when there are so many clones, time travelers, and shape-shifting aliens running around. On paper, the idea of a child carrying on the legacy of a parent seems like the most logical and appropriate thing in the world. In the pages Marvel comics, however, that's just not enough. There has to be some sort of elaborate, convoluted story behind it that only ends up getting retconned in the end.

While this hinders and dissuades most children from carrying on their parents' legacy, Laura Kinney finds a way navigate these excessive convolutions. She actually manages to don her father's title after his death in Death of Wolverine and, by nearly every measure, she honors that title as well as anyone could expect her to. It doesn't feel forced. It doesn't feel like a gimmick. It actually comes off as a young woman wanting to honor her father.

Batman may have a monopoly of sorts in drawing inspiration from dead parents, but Laura sets herself apart by being her own character long before she put on yellow spandex. She actually spends time learning from Logan and being his daughter so that when the time eventually comes, her acceptance of the role carries the right weight.

With the conclusion of Secret War, Tom Taylor establishes Laura as having graduated from her journey as X-23. Now, she is Wolverine. She proudly wears the uniform and bears the title of her father. She even manages to pick up a little sister and a pet wolverine along the way. How can any father not be proud of that?

With Generations: Wolverine and All-New Wolverine #1, Laura gets a chance to find out just how well she's honoring her father's legacy and from the best possible source. As with previous iterations of Marvel Generations, Laura finds herself dropped right in the middle of a major moment in Logan's history. Also like previous iterations, there's little explanation or context given to that moment. However, there doesn't really have to be. She's suddenly fighting alongside her father against an army of undead ninjas. There's no need for context. She just does her father proud and starts stabbing.

It's a familiar, but still immensely satisfying setup. Wolverine from two different eras come together and fight undead ninjas. Like the Hulk smashing or Deadpool breaking the fourth wall, it's one of those classic Marvel elements that never gets old. Laura's presence, however, adds a new dimension to the mix and this is where Taylor uses the setup of Marvel Generations to do something special for both Wolverines beyond undead ninja stabbing.

The situation already has some dramatic underpinnings in that its ripped right from the pages of Chris Claremont's run on Wolverine. Fittingly enough for Laura, the situation involves family, namely the adopted daughter, Akiko, that he and Mariko took in. As often happens with Wolverine and anyone he's involved with, ninjas attack and he has to rescue her. It's as familiar to him as a bar fight, but Laura's presence adds something unique to it.

The events of that story are already set in that they establish that Logan can be part of a family and fight for it. What Laura does, though, goes beyond simply giving the ninjas another target. She comes into the conflict already knowing how it plays out to some extent. She doesn't just stand by and watch, though. That's not her style. That's certainly not Wolverine's style. When there are ninjas to be stabbed, Wolverine gets to stabbing. No amount of time paradoxes can stop that.

It's in between the stabbing, though, where Generations: Wolverine and All-New Wolverine #1 really expands on the drama. Taylor takes a somewhat different approach compared to other aspects of Marvel Generations in that much of the narrative unfolds from Logan's perspective. It's his thoughts and feelings that guide the story. While he doesn't radically alter the story that Claremont told decades ago, Laura's presence adds a unique dynamic to the mix.

By offering insight into Logan's thoughts and feelings, Taylor reveals a man who has as conflicted understanding of family. While he will go out of his way to save loved ones, he still sees himself as a loner who can't be part of a family. That's somewhat understandable. Being in his family means an exponential increase in the likelihood of ninja attacks. Unlike Akiko, though, Laura can handle it and handle it well. Even Logan acknowledges that early on.

By fighting alongside her, he sees first-hand that it is possible to be part of a family. It is possible to have someone in his life who can handle the occasional ninja attack. Laura doesn't just prove it. She goes out of her way to belabor that point, encouraging Logan to be part of a family. Her just being there does plenty to prove her case. She knows that he goes onto welcome her into his family and guide her into eventually taking on the title of Wolverine.

It sets up for a powerful moment between the two Wolverines. It's a moment heavy on family drama, the kind that is often a precursor to tragedy in Logan's life. However, with Generations: Wolverine and All-New Wolverine #1, that legacy of tragedy is secondary. For once, he and Laura can just appreciate the fact that they're part of a family and that family now has a legacy. It's the kind of moment that really adds a powerful, emotional link between two eras of Wolverine.

That moment is what makes Generations: Wolverine and All-New Wolverine #1 worth its weight in dead undead ninjas. It's a moment that takes time to develop. For much of the story, though, the ninja fighting subverts the drama. It's still wildly entertaining and Ramon Rosanas' art makes it as visually appealing as it needs to be. When the drama finally does come, it has just the right impact. It's brief, but powerful.

More than anything else, Generations: Wolverine and All-New Wolverine #1 establishes that the legacy of Wolverine isn't just measured by mountains of dead ninjas. It's part of a legacy. Logan establishes that legacy. Laura carries it on. Being Wolverine is basically a family affair, albeit with a lot more stabbing and ninja attacks, and it's a family that Wolverine fans of every generation can root for.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Friday, August 11, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 155: Drug War Part 1 is LIVE!


At this point in X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, it would be redundant for me to say that a storm is brewing. I think it’s safe to say that the storm has already arrived on the shores of this fanfiction series. The winds are picking up, the skies are getting darker, and it has nothing to do with Storm being in a bad mood. The warnings I established in X-men Supreme Issue 149: Law Abiding Bind are not just warnings anymore. The danger is here and the X-men being divided is not going to help.

In Volatility Sensibility, the first arc of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided, we saw how much Charles Xavier and his X-men struggled. Cyclops and Wolverine are no longer with the team. Instead, the X-men had to be led by Captain Jack Freeman, with whom they’ve had a tenuous relationship since his introduction into this fanfiction series back in X-men Supreme Issue 75: Renegade. Unfortunately, he’s the only one that General Grimshaw trusts enough to lead the X-men. He’s a soldier, a Green Beret, and a mutant. However, he’s no X-men and it showed in their inability to deal with Nitro.

Now, with that less-than-successful effort still fresh in their memories, the X-men face a much greater threat. Sebastian Shaw has already done plenty to make his presence felt in this fanfiction series, going all the way back to the Phoenix Saga. Since his return at the end of the Dark Legacy arc, he’s been hard at work plotting his return to prominence. Even after being stabbed by Wolverine, the former Black King’s ambitions are still as big as ever.

The X-men, as well as their rivals in X-Force, already got a taste of what Shaw has been up to since his return. Like any ruthless businessman, he’s looking to exploit the impact that the Mutant Monitoring Initiative has had on the world of X-men Supreme. It doesn’t take the mind of Charles Xavier to see how much danger a man like Shaw can cause. Thanks to the efforts of X-Factor, they now know that he’s the one responsible for the appearance of Mutant Growth Hormone, the powerful drug that can turn ordinary mutants like Beak into major threats.

Shaw already has the aid of the granddaughters of Jason Wynegarde, a man who has also caused the X-men plenty of pain throughout this fanfiction series, in maximizing the impact of Mutant Growth Hormone. Considering how much the X-men struggled with Nitro in Volatility Sensibility, who didn’t even have access to a drug like that, Charles Xavier and his team have plenty to worry about. Their alliance with General Grimshaw and President Kelly is already in a tenuous state. Someone like Shaw could do more than just undermine the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. He could utterly destroy it and so much more.

It’s a storm that promises to do plenty of damage for the X-men, X-Force, and every other mutant in this fanfiction series. I’ve spent the early parts of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided establishing the challenges that Charles Xavier, General Grimshaw, and President Kelly are facing with the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. The threat posed by Shaw in this arc will be, by far, their greatest challenge to date. There will be damage, as there often is whenever Shaw is involved. The extent of that damage and whether it can be repaired remains to be seen. That’s why it’s safe to say that this arc, Drug War, will shape the course of this fanfiction series for the rest of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided.

X-men Supreme Issue 155: Drug War Part 1

This second major arc is going to really raise the stakes of X-men Supreme. I know I’ve done plenty of that since this fanfiction series began, but I’ve never done it when the X-men are this divided. X-men fans have seen those kinds of divisions play out in the X-men comics for decades, but they’ve never seen it play out in a fanfiction series like this.

I know a lot of comic book fans, especially X-men fans, are burned out on heroes clashing with heroes. I hope to bring a unique twist to that frustrating trend with X-men Supreme. This latest arc is part of that effort and to ensure it’s as awesome and non-frustrating as possible, I need feedback. I know I say that with every new arc, but it’s more critical now than ever. If I can make X-men Supreme awesome in this current climate of X-men comics, then I know I’ll have achieved something special. Either post your comments directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine and I’m happy to chat X-men. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rising Ashes From Two Eras: Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1

The following is my review of Generations: Phoenix and Jean Grey #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


It's usually a sign when a certain character becomes best known for dying, not staying dead, and having large chunks of their history retconned and rewritten. It's rarely a good sign, but a select few can manage more balanced results. Jean Grey functions better than most with that kind of legacy. She dies, comes back to life, dies again, gets cloned, travels through time, and somehow finds a way to deal with a cosmic force. That may very well be another sign, but one that speaks to the strength of her character.

In a sense, Jean Grey is one of those characters who's always torn between two opposing forces. Sometimes it involves her being on the wrong end of a love triangle. Other times, it involves wanting to forge her own path while still confronting the many conflicts in her history. She knows she ends up dead, an icon to some and a walking resurrection joke to others. Since her arrival from the past in All-New X-men, Jean's story seems to fluctuate from one conflicting force to another.

One day, she's trying everything she can to avoid the same obstacles that doomed her adult self. The next, she's determined to face them. Given that she's a teenager and teenagers are known to have erratic methods in dealing with problems, this is understandable. It also makes Jean Grey's story somewhat chaotic. There's not a clear understanding of what she hopes to accomplish, so long as she's stuck in the future with the rest of the time-displaced X-men. Unlike her teammates, though, she can't reach out to her older self for guidance.

Now, thanks to space-time machinations for Marvel Generations, a teenage Jean Grey finally gets the chance to interact with her older self and learn from the icon herself. What plays out in Marvel Generations: Phoenix and Jean Grey #1 is not an illusion. It's not some twisted memory either. This is the real Jean Grey of X-men lore who goes onto devour a star, cheat death, get clones, and inspire any number of fights between Cyclops and Wolverine. It's as big a moment as a teenage girl can ever face outside her prom night.


Cullen Bunn and RB Silva don't just rip a teenage Jean Grey out of the present and stick her into some contrived point in the ever-changing, constantly-reconnected timeline of the X-men. Bunn shows that he's done his homework by putting the young Jean Grey in a specific moment within the original Phoenix Saga between that ran between Uncanny X-men #101 and Uncanny X-men #138. It's the kind of attention to detail that Chris Claremont himself would be proud of.

In a sense, it's the most optimal moment Jean and her older self could've chosen for their respective stories. Within the context of the original Phoenix Saga, it's that brief period where Jean had control over the Phoenix Force. She isn't corrupted, twisted, or devouring entire star systems just to see what it feels like. She's still very human in her perspective, but vulnerable to the corruption that comes with the god-like power of the Phoenix Force.

It's a narrow window for her teenage self to explore, but one that's vital within the context of her own story. It provides a clear and effective link between the conflict unfolding in Jean's solo series and the events unfolding in Marvel Generations. Once again, Jean faces the prospect of dealing with the Phoenix Force again.

She knows as well as anyone who tries to follow convoluted timelines and never-ending death/rebirth plots that it's bound to cause cosmic headaches for everyone. In order to deal with it, she needs to learn about it. She'll find no better source than this particular version of herself at this particular point in her history. Even a cosmic version of Wikipedia can't provide information that comprehensive.

As a result, Marvel Generations: Phoenix and Jean Grey #1 takes on a very personal undertone. Bunn dedicates significant parts of the narrative to exploring the inner conflict within the teenage Jean Grey. She recognizes from the beginning that this is an important opportunity, one that she can't afford to pass up. She needs to learn everything she can about the Phoenix Force. On top of that, she has spoilers to the tragedy that lies just ahead for her adult counterpart.


Despite all the implications this meeting has for both characters, Bunn resists the urge to turn teenage Jean Grey into Marty McFly from Back to the Future in that she doesn't mindlessly mess with the timeline. She actually establishes a personal connection with her older self. She doesn't attempt to deceive her or impede her. She presents herself as a friend and ally. It may seem redundant since they're the same person, but it serves an important purpose.

By becoming an ally, teen Jean gets a chance to learn about her older self outside the tragedy, heartache, and retcons that exist only in the memories of her fellow X-men. She sees that, like her, the older Jean Grey is also struggling to make sense of this cosmic power. However, her older self clearly has a different perspective of that power, which she eagerly demonstrates in ways that maximizes the visual appeal of Silva's art.

It leads to a cosmic clash between the Phoenix and Galactus. It's the kind of clash that's inherently epic on paper, but easy to mess up in a story. Bunn achieves a fitting balance of sorts, giving Jean and her adult counterpart a chance to shine and learn from each other. In doing so, it sets up a unique moment between two characters from different periods in a vast mythos. That moment carries with it a dramatic impact that maximizes the opportunity that Marvel Generations creates.

It's a moment that Marty McFly botched in Back to the Future. For Jean Grey, it's a moment of clarity that takes place at the best possible time. That's not just an outside observation either. The Watcher himself shows up to let her know just how important her decision is in the grand scheme of the never-ending chaos that is the Marvel universe. She has a chance to make the easy decision that will most definitely incur all sorts of complications and consequences. She ends up making a different choice. The fact she makes that choice as a teenager, whose natural inclinations gravitate towards easy solutions bereft of consequence, speaks to the strength of her character.

Marvel Generations: Phoenix and Jean Grey #1 is in a position to literally rewrite the history of one of the X-men's most iconic stories. It's also in a position to add even greater complications to a story that has had more than its share since the 1980s. Bunn doesn't draw the ire of Chris Claremont, nor does he completely nullify the potential of the moment. The Jean Grey from the past and the Jean Grey from the present both get something out of their encounter. It's not the same as a retcon or a time paradox, but it has a genuine impact and that impact feels relevant to both characters.

There's still a sense that teenage Jean didn't do as much as she could've. It could be argued that she didn't do as much as she should've either. However, what she ends up doing is probably the most responsible decision she could've made in that situation. For a teenager constantly looking for ways to avoid the destiny that fate has laid out for her, it speaks volumes to the strength of her character. Even if the circumstances of Marvel Generations are unclear and the overall impact is uncertain, Jean Grey shows why, no matter which era she's in, she's still the heart of the X-men.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Friday, August 4, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 155: Drug War Part 1 PREVIEW!


One of the biggest challenges in writing X-men is finding ways to apply their struggle for peace and understanding to the real world. I imagine it’s a struggle that the writers at Marvel also feel. From Chris Claremont to Joss Whedon, how do you develop the X-men in a way that makes their struggle feel relevant to that of other minorities? It has been a challenge throughout the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. There are times that challenge becomes secondary because the X-men do occasionally deal with cosmic elements like the Phoenix Force or the Shi’ar. There’s just no real-world parallel to the events in an arc like Starcrossed.

While I’ve done more than my share of cosmic arcs in this fanfiction series, going all the way back to X-men Supreme Issue 46: Paradise Mystery and the Phoenix Saga, I still make an effort to build the X-men’s struggle around conflicts that feel real. One of the greatest appeals of the X-men is how their struggles parallel that of real minorities, be it race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. The X-men were created in the early days of the Civil Rights movement. The case could be made that their struggle is more important now than it has ever been.

That struggle has gained a host of new complications since the beginning of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided. On one hand, Charles Xavier is being wholly pragmatic about how the X-men further their efforts at peace and understanding. He’s working with the authorities rather than against them, teaming up with President Kelly and General Grimshaw on the Mutant Monitoring Initiative. His intentions are good, as they often are. However, working with the government, especially when the President has a history of opposing the X-men, comes with significant risks.

That, in many respects, is why some of the X-men’s most loyal members, namely Cyclops and Wolverine, chose to break away from their mentor’s plan. They formed X-Force because they felt that peace and understanding can’t be imposed from the top down. It needs to be built from the bottom up. They’ve already shown Professor Xavier and the X-men, who are now led by Captain Freeman, how those efforts can be complicated. The Volatility Sensibility arc had them struggle to deal with a single mutant. What does that mean for them when they face a more daunting enemy?

Well, that enemy has arrived. Sebastian Shaw, who has already made his presence felt in his fanfiction series, is back. The events of Dark Legacy put him in a position to regain what the X-men took from him during the Phoenix Saga. With his son now out of the way and the Inner Circle disbanded, he’s ready to rebuild his power. He’s even enlisted help from familiar names in the Wyngarde sisters, whose ties to Jason Wyngarde can only mean trouble.

X-men Supreme Issue 154: Reaching Out revealed that Shaw is the one behind Kick, the mutant-enhancing drug that has already made its presence felt with X-Factor. However, his agenda is just beginning. Both the X-men and X-Force know better than anyone that Sebastian Shaw is not someone to take lightly. Between his history with the Inner Circle and his connections to Sage and Weapon Plus, he can only bring trouble. He will also bring a daunting, not to mention relevant, challenge to the X-men Supreme fanfiction series in its next major arc, Drug War. As always, I’ve prepared a preview to show the first sparks of that war.

Teon lingered around Jubilee’s feet a bit longer. At one point, he reached for her sunglasses and put them on. At this point, Idie waved him down. He was getting a bit too friendly in her eyes.

“Give them back, Teon,” she said with a light scold.

“Fight?” was all Teon said in response.

“No. Remember what I told you about thou shalt not steal?”

Teon whimpered a bit as if to show remorse. Then he put the sunglasses back on Jubilee’s head before returning to Idie’s side. Jubilee couldn’t help but green even as Idie expressed remorse.

“I apologize for that. He’s…curious at times,” said Idie.

“Don’t worry about it. He’s only slightly more ill-mannered than my ex-boyfriend,” said Jubilee, giving Teon a playful look.

“Friend?” said Teon.

“If those are the kinds of guys you’re into, no wonder he likes you,” said Laurie, rolling her eyes.

Jubilee laughed again. She wished she hadn’t though. She was getting a bit too friendly with these mutants. That was a dangerous position to be in. She put her whole mission in jeopardy.

‘So much for keeping it together. These guys have all had the kind of rotten luck. They think Shaw will give them a better life. I’m here to undermine him because we know he’s behind that MGH crap. It’s not like I can have second thoughts. Tessa had me swallow this special transmission beacon before I left District X. For all I know, it’s beaming my location to the X-men and the MSA. I just hope that when shit starts exploding, these guys aren’t caught in the crossfire.’

Jubilee turned back towards the passing view outside. The desolate countryside finally started showing signs of civilization. They just entered what appeared to be a large plantation of sorts. It was entirely walled off, guarded by what looked like Mexican soldiers.

When the bus approached, the driver who hadn’t said a word to them since they got on signaled something through a radio. The soldiers simply nodded and opened the gates for the bus.

Passing through the gates, it was like entering another universe. Jubilee and the five young mutants found themselves in an opulent villa. The landscaping alone bore the markings of a very rich and powerful man, but it was the mansion itself that had them all in awe.

It stood a good four stories high and looked big enough to be its own neighborhood. It had a large fountain in the front and two smaller fountains on the side. They were part of a large circular driveway, which was manned by armed men who looked nothing like Mexican soldiers. As the bus approached, the true impact of their decision started sinking in.

“Wow…I didn’t know they made houses this big in Mexico!” exclaimed Gabriel.

“I didn’t know they made houses this big period!” said Laurie.

“It seems…excessive,” said Idie.

“House?” said Teon.

“That would be a profound insult to such an architectural marvel,” said Kenji.

While the five mutants admired the structure, Jubilee swallowed a touch of nervousness. If Sebastian Shaw was able to live in a place like this yet still evade people like Tessa and the X-men, then he was more resourceful than they thought. She maintained a confident poise as the bus pulled up to the front door. Once the doors to the bus opened and they made their way out, they were greeted by Shaw’s loyal associate, Warhawk.

“Welcome to the Villa del Fuego,” said Warhawk, “Mr. Shaw welcomes you to his humble facility.”

“I would say there is nothing humble about it,” said Kenji, “The architecture reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright mixed with a late Victorian layout. Very elaborate and very pricy, I imagine.”

“I’d just settle for calling it rich,” chuckled Gabriel.

“Mr. Shaw feels it’s important to present a powerful image,” explained Warhawk, “As beings of powers ourselves, it’s only fitting that we carry ourselves as such.”

“Sounds a little egotistical,” commented Jubilee.

“Hey! We’re guests here,” scolded Laurie, “Don’t make light of his hospitality.”

“Indeed,” said Idie in a daze, “I doubt we’ll ever enjoy it again.”

“I wouldn’t presume too much,” said Warhawk, “Once you see what Mr. Shaw can do for talented mutants like yourself, you’ll have every opportunity to experience the finer pleasures of life.”

“Mate?” said Teon.

“Not sure if that’s his way of voicing his approval, but I think he likes it,” grinned Gabriel.

The five mutants were understandably excited. They were being welcomed into this rich, secure world after having endured such rotten luck in their previous lives. Jubilee certainly couldn’t blame them for being enthusiastic. She struggled to keep up with them as they followed Warhawk to the front doors of the massive facility. Once inside, the real danger of this mission could begin.

“You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the sights later,” said Warhawk as he opened the main doors, “The six of you have arrived at a very exciting time. Mr. Shaw’s efforts to break the chains that bind mutants like yourselves has enjoyed moderate success. Now he plans on taking a much bolder step. With Mr. Shaw’s resources, you’ll become the shining lights of a new generation of mutants!”


The first few issues of X-men Supreme Volume 7: United and Divided have been steady in setting up the major conflicts between the X-men and X-Force. With this arc, things will begin escalating quickly. The stakes will rise. Greater threats will emerge. It’s all building towards another major event that will shake this fanfiction series to its core, but in the best possible way. I know Marvel says that about every major event. I want those words to mean something with X-men Supreme. As such, it’s critical that I continue to get feedback so that I can make sure that impact is awesome. Either contact me directly or post your comments directly in the issues. Ignore the spammers. I’m still working on that. It might be best to contact me for now. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Anger Across The Ages: Generations: Banner Hulk & Totally Awesome Hulk #1

The following is my review of Generations: Banner Hulk and Totally Awesome Hulk #1, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


There are few constants in the ever-evolving, constantly-retconning narrative that is the Marvel universe. Costumes may change. Marriages may be undone by deals with Mephisto. Characters may turn out to be from an alternate universe, a Skrull agent, or evil clones of characters that died years ago. The fact that anyone can accept that kind of convoluted continuity with a straight face is a miracle, in and of itself. That makes the constants that remain all the more important and few are as memorable or iconic as the Hulk's anger.

His enemies may not like it when he's angry, but the Hulk's destructive rage makes for some of the best entertainment that the Marvel universe can offer. That anger, as blinding as it can be sometimes, takes many forms over the course of the Hulk's illustrious life. The rage that begins under Stan Lee's legendary pen is not the same as the one that continues under Greg Pak. That's what makes the concept of mixing the past and present so intriguing. That's the premise behind the Marvel Generations series. That's how the rage of one Hulk meets the rage of another in Generations: Banner Hulk and Totally Awesome Hulk #1.

In terms of context, the differences between Bruce Banner and Amadeus Cho are considerable. While both carry the burden of the Hulk, the weight of that burden is different for both characters. The death of Bruce Banner in Civil War II and the emergence of Amadeus Cho in Totally Awesome Hulk puts both characters on a different path. Pak, with the skilled art of Matteo Buffagni, brings those paths together in a story of shared anger.

The premise of the story is somewhat unclear. The mechanism by which Cho ends up in the past, confronting the Hulk during one of his earliest clashes with General Ross, is not overtly explained. Cho is in the present one moment. Then, he's in the past. That's the extent of the explanation.

That's not to say it's wholly contrived. In a world routinely driven by reality-bending hardware like the Cosmic Cube, the Infinity Gauntlet, and editorial mandates, it's not that much of a stretch that Cho would find himself unexpectedly in the past. That sounds like the sort of thing that happens to anyone who hangs out with Cable too much.

The lack of a premise does little to undermine the gamma-powered action, though. Pak doesn't waste any time giving Hulks from two different eras to start smashing something. He understands that if there are going to be two hulks in a story, then there needs to be twice the smashing. Generations: Banner Hulk and Totally Awesome Hulk #1 does plenty to fill that quota. Buffagni also does plenty to give it the distinct visual elements that make a Hulk story stand out. There are open spaces, raging monsters, and hard-nosed old men trying to solve problems by blowing them up.

In terms of checking the boxes for a classic Hulk story, Generations: Banner Hulk and Totally Awesome Hulk #1 covers most of the basics. However, the boxes it doesn't check are arguably the most important and that represents the most significant flaw in a story that otherwise has ample entertainment value. It's not enough to just have two Hulks smashing things. That's all well and good, but smashing without any greater meaning or drama behind it is just empty smashing. Even with the Hulk, that kind of smashing only goes so far.

 
It's when Cho and Bruce Banner aren't bulky green behemoths where the story really stalls. There's some initial confusion, as is to be expected whenever someone not named Dr. Doom warps time and space. Then, they start interacting, but not much comes of it. They try to avoid General Ross. They attempt to conceal themselves in populated areas. They even talk about their respective struggles to control the Hulk and the rage that drives him.

However, not much really comes from those conversations. Cho and Banner don't tell each other anything that they don't already know about themselves or the Hulk. There's not much dramatic impact in anything they do. Cho barely references the Hulk's future death in Civil War II, nor does he show much emotion when interacting with Banner. Given their history and their various connections throughout the Hulk's mythos, it feels downright muted.

There's still an underlying theme. There's still a sense of connection between Amadeus Cho's version of the Hulk and Bruce Banner's version. Concepts of anger, burdens, and dealing with inner monsters are all there. There's just no melodrama behind it. It may as well be an unnecessary reminder. Anyone who reads a Hulk comic from any era will get that same message, albeit with different varieties of smashing.

There's nothing about the narrative in Generations: Banner Hulk and Totally Awesome Hulk #1 that's out of place in terms of characterization, plot, or style. Both Banner and Cho get a chance to be their own Hulk. Pak, whose Hulk pedigree is beyond dispute, handles both characters as well as he has in previous efforts. Buffagni's artwork helps supplement those efforts. That's what makes the utter lack of impact so glaring and for a character who specializes in smashing, that's saying a lot.

Mixing elements from the past and present creates opportunities to explore classic themes while expanding on the dramatic weight that has built up to such a massive extent over the years. Generations: Banner Hulk and Totally Awesome Hulk #1 feels like one of those opportunities that was only partially realized. It does enough to smash all the right things. It just doesn't add enough merit behind the smashing.

Final Score: 5 out of 10