Friday, January 20, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 147: Vengeful Anarchy is LIVE!


When it comes to the X-men’s many enemies, they tend to bring out the best and the worst in them. A big part of the X-men’s mythos is built around how Magneto and Charles Xavier complement one another as adversaries and friends. You could say the same about Wolverine and Sabretooth. When the X-men clash with their enemies, it leaves a mark, for better and for worse.

There have been many of these clashes throughout the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Clashes like Uprising, Overlord, the Phoenix Saga, and Outer Limits each gave the X-men a chance to be the best they can be. These stories gave characters like Cyclops, Jean Grey, Charles Xavier, Storm, and Wolverine a chance to be great. They made for some of the most powerful moments in the history of X-men Supreme. Well, I can now say that the end of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation will create a very different kind of moment for the X-men.

Since the beginning of X-men Supreme Volume 6, which marked the rise of the Mutant Liberation Front and the beginning of a major transition for Charles Xavier, the X-men have struggled to adapt to changing conflicts. The Mutant Liberation Front really changed the nature of the human/mutant struggle. They made it so that being heroes just wasn’t enough. The X-men couldn’t just save the day and expect that to set an example for mutants everywhere. The Mutant Liberation Front left scars on everyone, from the X-men to Genosha to President Kelly, that are just starting to fester.

I’ve been guiding X-men Supreme towards a very pivotal moment, one that I’ve been setting up since I introduced General Grimshaw and Captain Freeman back in X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear. Since they’re OCs, I’ve been hesitant to put them in more prominent roles. I know people read X-men Supreme for the X-men and not characters they’ve never seen before. Well, they’ve had a while to establish themselves in this fanfiction series. Now, they’re about to play a much larger role in the future of X-men Supreme.

That role will emerge as the X-men face the final conflict in X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. It began with the Mutant Liberation Front. It’s only fitting that it ends with the Mutant Liberation Front. Stryfe, the last one standing, is about to strike the X-men where it hurts most. This time, there’s no way around it. The result of this battle will change the X-men and the course of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. Hearts will be broken. Spirits will be crushed. This will be a defining issue for multiple characters, albeit for very solemn reasons. Expect this to be an issue that will reverberate throughout the X-men Supreme fanfiction series for a long time to come.

X-men Supreme Issue 147: Vengeful Anarchy

Big moments like this don’t come along often in this fanfiction series. I always try to build towards them, making sure they unfold in way that makes X-men Supreme more awesome. I have a feeling the conclusion of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation will leave many X-men fans very worried, but I also hope they’ll be intrigued. The damage done at the conclusion of this stage of the X-men Supreme fanfiction series will run deep, but it’ll do so in a way that will bring out the best in these characters. I hope X-men fans will appreciate the sentiment.

During such tenuous times, both within X-men Supreme and the X-men comics, it’s very important that I continue to get feedback. I expect I’ll get plenty of anxious comments from X-men fans of all types, especially after this and the next issue play out. I want to hear those comments. I want to respond to them and I want to get people excited about the future of X-men Supreme. I can’t do that unless people take the time to review. Either contact me directly or post your comments directly in the issue. Either way is fine and I’m always happy to chat. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Grounded and Rooted: Guardians of the Galaxy #16

The following is my review of Guardians of the Galaxy #16, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


There's tends to be this understandable, but misguided sentiment that the best traits of a character only show when they're in the worst of circumstances. It's certainly the case that iconic moments in a character's legacy come from harsh, often tragic narratives. Whether it's Jean Grey's sacrifice at the end of The Dark Phoenix Saga or the Captain America's death at the conclusion of Civil War, these are powerful moments that reveal why these characters are so iconic.

These moments are memorable and all, but they often present a simplistic and incomplete insight into a character. Most comic book readers don't need to be reminded constantly of Jean Grey's propensity for dying, Superman's boundless idealism, or Deadpool's deplorable toilet humor. That's why insights into less dire moments tend to reveal other layers to these characters that often go unnoticed.

Brian Michael Bendis makes a concerted effort to craft these moments in Guardians of the Galaxy. It's a remarkable change of tone for a series that involves talking raccoons, talking trees, and blowing up a planet at least once a week. Throughout his run on this series, he highlights some of the most memorable traits of these characters. However, in the ongoing Grounded arc, he does this from a whole new angle.

For once, the Guardians aren't caught up in some exotic, cosmic struggle that requires them to outwit Thanos one week while stopping a Shi'ar civil war the next. Instead, Bendis has the Guardians stranded on Earth, a direct result of their involvement in the events of Civil War II. It basically forces the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy to find new ways to be iconic.  

Guardians of the Galaxy #16 presents the most challenging part of that process to date by putting Groot in unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory. For a character with such a limited vocabulary, but near-limitless likability, it's a challenge that requires a wholly different approach. It's one thing to flesh out a nerdy high school kid with spider powers. A giant talking tree requires a different approach, wholly unprecedented approach.


Remarkably, Bendis finds a beautifully functional approach and artist, Valerio Schiti, makes it work to the utmost. This approach involves telling Groot's story as though it were a children's story. Being a talking tree, this actually works beautifully. It's an unusual format, if only because it doesn't rely heavily on Rocket Raccoon's overuse of pseudo-profanity like "krutacking." Given the context of the story, it kind of has to be unusual and Bendis embraces this concept.

Guardians of the Galaxy #16 gives Groot a chance to be more than just the linguistically challenged muscle of the Guardians. He gets to explore a world where trees flourish, provided they aren't in the path of logging companies or a Hulk rampage. Even in big cities like New York, there are parks where Groot can fit right in. If anything, he seems more at home in a situation like this than he is in the cold vacuum of space. Being a tree, it almost makes too much sense.

Beyond the more favorable conditions, the story involves more than Groot enjoying a sunny day at the park while Rocket complains. He does get a chance to be a hero, albeit on a very basic level. This leads to a colorful and well-crafted clash with Armadillo. He's a fairly generic villain, one whose personality doesn't even match a standard Doombot, but that makes him an ideal threat for Groot. This story is intended to flesh out Groot and not a villain dumb enough to rob a bank in broad daylight. When talking trees are involved, tact is wholly unnecessary.

During this clash, we get to see Groot carry himself in a world where people aren't used to talking trees. Big green Hulks and killer robots are one thing, but talking trees really strain a population that is already a bit too used to the occasional Skrull invasion. Naturally, Groot doesn't generate many fans at first, even after he takes down Armadillo. This is where the children's book style of the story really shines.

Along the way, Groot gains an important fan in a little boy named London. This boy, who carries himself like any typical prepubescent protagonist from a Disney movie, stands up for Groot at the moment when misguided adults are still overly inclined to shoot something that may or may not be one of Dr. Doom's failed experiments. Since compassion for children tends to override a desire to shoot things, it works and Groot now has a friend.


It makes for a simple, but uplifting conclusion to the conflict. At a time when superheroes just finished fighting another Civil War and Captain America is a Hydra agent, it makes for a uniquely satisfying story. As Stephen Spielberg revealed years ago with ET, a lovable alien befriending a young boy has undeniable appeal.

That appeal may make readers feel warm and fuzzy inside, but the overly simple nature of the narrative may also limit the depth of the story. More than anything else, Guardians of the Galaxy #16 reaffirms the traits that make Groot who he is. It doesn't really add depth to those traits or provide greater insight. It's primarily a story where Groot gets to be himself and shines however he can.

This basic, but effective approach makes Guardians of the Galaxy #16 one of those issues that fans of a specific character can cite when they want to explain why a particular character is so lovable. If Vin Disel's voice acting in the movie didn't do it for some, then the story in this comic should finish the job. He may be a giant talking tree with an exceedingly limited vocabulary, but he's as lovable as any furry animal that isn't armed with a machine gun. Rocket Racoon would do well to heed his friend's example.

Final Score: 7 out of 10

Friday, January 13, 2017

X-men Supreme Issue 147: Vengeful Anarchy PREVIEW!


In case you haven’t heard it enough already, Happy New Year everybody! Welcome to 2017. For the X-men Supreme fanfiction series, the new year is an even bigger holiday of sorts. It seems so long ago, but X-men Supreme officially began on New Years Day way back in 2010. A lot has happened since then and I’m not just talking about this fanfiction series.

The X-men comics have gone through plenty of upheaval, including extinction plots, sterilization plots, and time travel plots. In that same time, X-men Supreme has undergone many upheavals involving cosmic forces, mutant uprisings, tense presidential elections, and alien adventures. In all that time, I have not once resorted to sterilization or time travel. That says as much about X-men Supreme as it does the current X-men comics, but that’s another topic altogether.

At the moment, the X-men Supreme fanfiction series is entering its seventh year. Fittingly, this momentous anniversary will mark another major upheaval for this fanfiction series. There are only two issues left of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. The events of these issues will shape the course for the future of this fanfiction series while also laying the foundation for the next volume. Make no mistake. This upheaval will be severe. This isn’t like the losses the X-men suffered after the events of Dark Legacy or the uncertainty they faced after the election of President Kelly. This conflict will run much deeper.

The catalyst of this conflict will come from a familiar face. Stryfe, who made his chaotic presence known during the Inauguration Day arc back in X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear, is looking to succeed where Toad failed. His role in the Mutant Liberation Front did not pan out. They suffered a crippling loss at the end of the Natural Disorder arc. He lost again in the recent Proactive Regression arc. The weight of those losses are getting heavy and Stryfe is getting more desperate. With no more support and no Mutant Liberation Front backing him up, he’s ready to launch one final attack that will help cap off X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation. The scars this attack will leave on the X-men will not heal easily.

Throughout X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation, the clashes and conflicts the X-men face have taken on new complexities. The Mutant Liberation Front undermined efforts by both humans and mutants to manage their affairs. The X-men tried to do their part. General Grimshaw and President Kelly tried to do theirs. In the end, the results leave much to be desired. The Mutant Liberation Front did a lot of damage and the recent disillusion of Genosha left a lot of uncertainty. How will humans and mutants deal with one another now? Is it even possible?

This question is about to gain one more major complication, thanks to Stryfe. In the penultimate chapter of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation, the X-men will face one final clash that will leave their team and their spirits wounded in ways they’ve never endured. It will lead to changes. It will lead to upheavals. The future of the X-men and the X-men Supreme fanfiction series is about to get murky and for once, it won’t be resolved through time travel, clones, magic, or sterilization. As always, I’ve prepared a preview of the penultimate issue of X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation to set the stage for this devastating clash that promises to upend the X-men as we know it.

“This is what you’ve been reduced to? Taking your frustrations out on my X-men?” questioned Xavier, “It won’t make your reckless endeavors any less futile!”

“This isn’t about the past, Xavier. I’ve always been forward thinking in my goals. Unlike you, I don’t run from the inevitable. The war between humans and mutants is inevitable. Time and again, I’ve tried to confront it with our side having the upper hand.”

“You think unleashing needless terror is a rational way to confront conflict?” retorted Xavier.

“It’s more rational than you’ll ever understand! You and the X-men failed to see it. Only through confrontation can our people be liberated. If you’re going to keep standing in the way of the inevitable, then you leave me no choice. For mutants to prosper, the X-men must die!”

There was no cunning to Stryfe’s plan this time. It was cold-blooded murder. His hatred for the X-men was almost as irrational as the hatred he inspired in those he influenced. Xavier looked up towards the observation deck and saw his faint outline. He was clearly taking a perverse pleasure in this.

“If you’re just going to stand there and watch, then you’re a coward, Stryfe!” yelled Xavier, “You’re an insult to your own ideals!”

“Who said I was just going to watch?” said Stryfe ominously through the speakers, “I’m just going to make sure you and your students are sufficiently distracted. I know this high tech playground of yours has some sort of psychic amplification device. Cerebrum, I believe it was called.”

“How…how do you know about that?” gasped Xavier.

“A friend of a friend told me. He also said that anyone with psionic powers could wield it. That means my knack for bringing out everybody’s inner asshole can be expanded to a global scale. Forget terrorism! Forget political stunts! With one mind, I will cleanse this world in chaos! Only then will mutants be truly liberated!”

The Professor paled at the notion. Looking into the enraged eyes of his X-men as they approached, he imagined the whole world being overcome by this rage. It would effectively render any effort at peace and understanding meaningless. The world was already consumed with fear and uncertainty. A thrust of rage would send humans and mutants over the edge and beyond.

Up in the observation deck, Stryfe grinned as he watched the X-men destroy themselves. Rogue and Cyclops stood over the defeated Phoenix. Gambit and Wolverine were ready to deliver their final blow as well. Colossus, Iceman, Shadowcat, and Storm surrounded Professor Xavier on all sides. They had no chance of stopping him. It was only a pity they would not be around to witness the coming destruction.

“Have fun with your students, Xavier! When all is said and done, your legacy will be sealed. You simply do too little when you have the chance to do so much.”

“Stryfe!” yelled Xavier in a fit of outrage.

It was no use. Stryfe had already turned off the speaker and slipped out of the observation deck. He was now on his way towards Cerebrum and the X-men weren’t in a position to stop them. Instead, they were poised to destroy one another in their blind rage.

“I GET FIRST DIBS!” yelled Iceman as he got in position for a shot.

“YOU WILL DO NO SUCH THING! IT IS I WHO SHALL STRIKE HIM!” said Colossus.

“I’M YOUR TEACHER! I HAVE THE RIGHT TO HIT FIRST!” argued Storm.

“TO HELL WITH YOUR RIGHTS! HE’S MINE!” exclaimed Shadowcat.

Professor Charles Xavier watched his enraged X-men approach while he sensed Stryfe running off. His frustration was quickly turning into desperation. He refused to let this be how his X-men ended. Stryfe took a big chance attacking the X-men in their own home. It was bold and desperate. If Xavier was going to stop him, he had to be equally determined. That meant crossing lines he once never dared to cross.

“No…not like this,” he seethed, “My X-men…forgive me.”

As his students closed in, he closed his eyes and channeled the full force of his telepathy. He shut out the swirling winds from Storm and the ongoing tremors from Avalanche, tapping the vast reserves of psionic energy that made him the world’s most powerful telepath. From these reserves, he unleashed a telepathic onslaught the likes of which he had never unleashed before. It was aggressive, forceful, and overwhelming. As soon as it struck the minds of his students, Stryfe’s influence was forcibly and painfully broken.

“ARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!” they all cried out.

Cyclops, Iceman, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Shadowcat, Gambit, and Colossus each clutched their heads in agony. Rather than try to reach them, Professor Xavier actually attacked their minds. It rendered them unconscious within seconds, their bodies going limp and falling to the floor. It was such a powerful attack that Xavier needed to catch his breath. It also allowed a dazed Phoenix and Psylocke to recover as well.

“Professor…what did you just do?” gasped Phoenix.

“I had no choice,” he said solemnly as he rose to his feet, “In order to break Stryfe’s hold, I had to strike it head on.”

“Next time, could you aim more carefully? I felt that too and my head is pounding like a jackhammer!” groaned Psylocke.

“I wish I could explain why this was necessary, but we don’t have the luxury of time,” said Xavier in an urgent tone, “I have to go after Stryfe! I must stop him from using Cerebrum!”

“That wanker’s gone mad! He can’t use it! Don’t we have security protocols?” said Psylocke.

“He was resourceful enough to enter the institute without us detecting him. We must assume he’s resourceful enough to get around Cerebrum’s safeguards! That’s why I must stop him!”

The Professor started running for the emergency exit to the Danger Room. At the same time, a new round of tremors rocked the Xavier Institute. This time they were so severe that the lights flickered. Phoenix and Psylocke looked around anxiously while tending to their unconscious teammates. It was one thing to be this vulnerable in the field. It was quite another for it to happen in their own home.

“Avalanche is getting bolder,” said Psylocke, “One of us should go topside and make him wish he drowned in that submarine.”

“Don’t worry about, Avalanche. For now, get the others to hanger and out through the emergency escape!” urged Xavier as he reached the exit.

“And leave you behind to face Stryfe alone?” said Psylocke.

“In a mansion that may crumble at any moment?” added Phoenix.

“I’m not crippled anymore. I can handle this,” he assured them. “Now hurry! Do not give Stryfe the satisfaction of playing into his hands!”

Professor Xavier didn’t linger for Phoenix and Psylocke to question his orders. He was already on his way to confront Stryfe. For once, his X-men wouldn’t be the ones to carry out his vision. This time, Charles Xavier was taking matters into his own hands.


I’m excited and anxious about the future of X-men Supreme in 2017. I have a feeling I’ll upset and worry a lot of readers with how X-men Supreme Volume 6: Liberation Decimation ends. Some of those concerns will extend into future volumes as well. However, I sincerely hope that the drama and upheaval of this fanfiction series will be compelling in a way that X-men fans will appreciate, especially given the state of the comics. With that in mind, it’s still critical that I continue to receive feedback and comments on X-men Supreme moving forward. I need to know whether I’m going too far with these upheavals and I can’t know that unless people tell me. Either contact me directly or post your comments directly in the issue. Either way is fine and I’m always happy to chat X-men. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Xcelsior!

Jack

Friday, January 6, 2017

Xtreme Satifaction From A Most Xtreme Era: X-men 92 #10

The following is my review of X-men 92 #10, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


Every era has distinct spirit and style that defines it. Just as the Beatles define the 1960s and disco music defined the late 1970s, the edgy grit of the X-men helped define the 1990s. Along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the OJ Simpson trial, the X-men embody an era where differences and extremes shoved their way into the mainstream. Mutants, being an over-arching metaphor for minorities, set the tone for this era and ran with it full-speed.

That time now seems so long ago as a new era driven by movie rights and the rival companies that fight over them takes hold. While the X-men still have a place in this era, it is nowhere near the prominence they enjoyed in the 1990s where toys, trading cards, and Pizza Hut promotions embraced all things X-men. X-men 92 doesn't come with those same promotions and it's not just because Pizza Hut has scaled back their marketing efforts. Even without those promotions, X-men 92 still carries with it that same spirit and style.

X-men 92 is series that simply cannot fit into an era where a talking raccoon with a machine gun generates the same interest as Wolverine. In another decade, it could be the gold standard for an entire franchise. Instead, it can only manage a short 10-issue series that capitalizes on the nostalgia and style of a bygone era. This doesn't give Chad Bowers and Chris Sims much to work with, but that doesn't stopped them from making every issue of X-men 92 count.

With X-men 92 #10, the limited narrative they've crafted reaches its premature conclusion. In many respects, its too premature to generate the same impact, even to those passionate X-men fans that cling desperately to the glory days of the mid-1990s. Despite these limits, Bowers and Sims still find a way to make X-men 92 #10 conclude in a way that feels epic, compelling, and dramatic to an extent that works beautifully in any era.

What begins in the Secret Wars tie-in culminates in this issue. It's not an overly elaborate plot. It doesn't have the same twists, turns, clones, retcons, and superhero civil wars that every plot after 2004 seems to mimic. That's not to say it's an overly simple plot either. It's not just the X-men fighting a killer robot. It's not just Wolverine snarling every other panel. There's a certain level of depth and drama that help heighten the emotions. For a series that draws from the fond memories of a cartoon that ended in 1997, that's quite an accomplishment.


The primary conflict, which has been building since the series began, involves a threat so big that even Apocalypse dreads it. It's the kind of extreme, over-the-top threat that emerged every other week in the '90s X-men comics. It's not too contrived either, building off the X-men's history with the Celestials. These space god robots definitely qualify as extreme and over-the-top, making them the perfect threat for this brand of X-men to face.

Beyond the threat, Bowers and Sims do what they can to resolve the outstanding plots that unfolded throughout the series. Given the tragically limited breadth of this series, this isn't too difficult. They resolve the side-plot with Cyclops and Jean Grey. They build off what they established with Dead Girl during the first major arc of the series. They take the time and effort to incorporate every one of these elements into the final resolution. That kind of impact reflects a genuine effort that isn't always obvious in a comic, be it a limited mini-series or a full-blown crossover event.

X-men fans from both the '90s and every other era will appreciate such efforts. They make for beautiful moments, some of which could easily fit right into the famous '90s cartoon. Moments like Cyclops and Jean Grey confronting Cable or Gambit finally sharing a moment with Rogue will warm the hearts of anyone who made watching that cartoon part of their Saturday morning. It's presented in a way that even those who never watched that cartoon can appreciate.

As nice as these moments are, they still only deliver a fraction of the dramatic weight that X-men 92 #10 delivers. Bowers and Sims really swing for the fences in resolving the Celestial conflict, taking Charles Xavier's dream and raising the stakes to a level that can only ever work in the final issue of a series. It goes beyond merely fostering peace between humans and mutants. More than anything else, it reveals the most important tenant of this dream and why it sets the X-men apart from their enemies, human and mutant alike.


For men like Charles Xavier, peace and understanding cannot be forced. It cannot be coerced, imposed, or telepathically forged. It has to be chosen and embraced. This is something that the Magnetoes, the Apocalypses, and the Sinisters of the world refuse to acknowledge. They don't trust ordinary humans to choose such a path. Charles Xavier has faith in humanity that they will make this choice when given a chance. That faith is ultimately rewarded in X-men 92 #10.

This reward still comes at a price, but one that is both fitting and satisfying. Bowers and Sims set it up in a way that feels right. It gives the impression that this is how Charles Xavier's dream must be realized. This is how that dream takes form and substance in the context of the X-men's overall narrative. It doesn't need to be tragic, but it doesn't need to be as fanciful as a Disney movie either. At a time when it's easy to be extremely cynical about human nature, the culmination in X-men 92 #10 offers a wonderfully refreshing perspective.

Even with a series that had so little time to grow and ends so abruptly, X-men 92 #10 manages to accomplish so much in such a short span of time. Given the scope and scale of the narrative, it's impossible to resolve every element without making a triple-sized issue, complete with bonus pages. Chad Bowers and Chris Sims still succeed in completing the X-men's narrative. Whether it's a cartoon from the mid-90s or a limited comic book series from 2016, it's still extremely satisfying. For X-men fans of all eras, especially the extremes of the '90s, it's astonishingly fitting.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Announcement on Upcoming Sexy Side-Projects


It's a brand new year and so far, nobody too important has died yet. That's not going to keep, but let's enjoy it while it lasts. I know 2016 sucked for a lot of people. There wasn't much we could do about that. The best I could do was keep on writing my PopMatters reviews, continue X-men Supreme, and work on my sexy side-projects, as I call them. As luck would have it, 2016 did offer an interesting revelation.

Apparently, stories about a very sexy Mary Jane Watson have a lot of appeal. Who knew? Both my "Spider-Man and the Prostitute" story and "The New Red Queen" were big hits, relatively speaking. I got a lot of fond comments from readers and I think I know why.


Now I didn't intend for the story to pan out like it did. I didn't even plan to write a sequel to it, but you gotta give the people what they want. Apparently, readers want an overtly sexy Mary Jane Watson in a universe where she worked as a prostitute. I'm not judging. I'm just saying there's an vocal audience I didn't know about.

With that in mind, I want to announce that I'm working on a few more sexy side-projects. One isn't related to my "Spider-Man and the Prostitute" story. It's actually one I've had planned for a while now and just finally got around to writing it. After that though, I have a couple of spin-offs in the works. These stories will act as sequels of sorts, taking place after "The New Red Queen" and expanding on this world. I don't want to reveal too much right now, but if you've enjoyed seeing Mary Jane Watson be sexy as hell, you'll love this!

Updates on X-men Supreme and various tie-ins will continue. There are only a couple issues left on Volume 6. I will be doing Volume 7. I won't tease too much for reasons that should be obvious in the next couple issues. Basically, if you're not liking the shit that's going on in the X-men comics right now, you should appreciate what I have planned. Nuff said!