Friday, March 27, 2015

House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Oliver Coipel

I originally intended to review all eight issues individually but due to some unforeseen time restraints IRL, I decided to simply post a single official review for its overall collection instead. And let me tell you something: writer Brian Michael Endis and artist Oliver Coipel have composed a formidable and pristine piece of comic book storytelling in the unbelievably catastrophic major event of House of M which had been dubbed ominously as "M-Day." And for a rather distressing reason at that.

M-Day not only affected X-Men's universe but also a great portion of the Marvelverse. Picking up right after the events of Planet X and Avengers Disassembled,  as well as Claremont's Excalibur III, House of M explores the turbulent effects of Wanda Maximoff's degrading mental state as the Scarlet Witch. Something just broke inside the poor woman, and she went on in a blind rampage, killing a few of the Avengers she and her twin brother Pietro (Quicksilver) have been a part of.

Because of this disaster, their father, Magneto, who had been declared officially dead to the world at large but was in truth living with Charles Xavier so they can restore Genosha together (Excalibur III) was forced out of hiding in the shadows so he can whisk her away to safety. He sought Xavier's help to cure her but in the last six months even the world's greatest telepathic mind could not mend what was so broken in Wanda's psyche.

The House of M arc is composed of a grand total of fifty-three issues, crossovering with titles such as The Uncanny X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Cable and Deadpool, Spider-Man, Captain America, to name a few. However, I only decided to touch upon the major eight-issued series which contained this volume and it's been one of the most stressful and exhilarating adventure I've ever had the pleasure of reading!

What was immediately exciting about this story is the fact that the ensemble of cast featured (X-Men, the Avengers, Dr. Strange and other Marvel characters with a direct connection with either group) was gathered together for a strong purpose and whose stories were scattered and sometimes necessarily explored rather well in each issue. Writing-wise, this could have easily been clattered and confusing, but Bendis excellently divided the characters within groups and glossed over the finest details with a concise and cohesive sense of narrative and action without overwhelming the readers nor diluting the importance of these subplots. The build-up and suspense were present issue after issue, leaving readers definitely invested on what will happen next which is something I know is never always a sure route when it comes to crossover events in comics. I believe that House of M excelled in this respect, reeling in readers, weaving them into the fabric of the narrative, and untangling the seams and threads only when there is no other choice for them but to unravel. And it's quite an experience because not only do readers look forward to the climactic confrontations and resolutions, but they are also interested in the way these game-changing events have affected the characters as individuals and as a unit.

Speaking of the latter, there were clear standouts that grabbed my attention with their characterizations for this story: Peter Parker, Emma Frost, Wanda and Pietro, and Hawkeye. These characters were fascinating and a little bit heartbreaking to read about because I felt for them during their experiences during M-Day. Basically, to evade the X-Men and the Avengers, Magneto, Wanda and Pietro hide out in a new reality the Scarlet Witch created where it's the humans who are the minority and the mutants are free to do whatever they want since it's their world now. This means that every character in the Marvelverse had their lives rewritten for them, and it was later revealed that the Scarlet Witch was able to achieve this by combining her powers with Charles Xavier's whose mind she's been connected with for six months now when he was trying to mend her. The only one who seemed to recognize that it was all an illusion was Wolverine, given his overall constitution and the fact that he had been mind-wiped so many times that once he actually remembered all the events in his life in the new world Wanda created, he immediately knew something was not right. He started to seek out the other heroes with the help of this mysterious girl named Layla Miller who can somehow restore memories once she comes in contact with them. Afterwards, a race to confront House of Magnus begins.

It's a widely acceptable notion to believe that it was Magneto who orchestrated all of this. After all, he wanted mutants to rule and govern as the superior species while humankind becomes the secondary citizens of the world in return. Scarlet Witch's new world was the utopia he had always wanted and so once the heroes recovered their memories and discovered the truth, they were livid because everything about this version of reality has Magneto's propaganda written all over it. But by the last two issues, Dr. Strange had a conversation with Wanda herself while she was tending to her imaginary children and he uncovered that it was her twin brother Pietro who had begged her to "cast a spell" on everyone in Marvelverse using her mutant powers of reality-bending. He did it because Pietro had always been so viciously protective of Wanda and seeing that their own estranged father was helpless to stop the X-Men and the Avengers from taking away (or even possibly killing Wanda), he convinces his sister, whose mind is already damaged to begin with, to "give everyone their heart's desire" in a new world she would construct. And so their will be done. Scarlet Witch reached Xavier to tap his powers and unite them with hers.

Forgive me for inserting some Cherik commentary by this part of the review but I think it needs to be said. When Pietro requested that the new world will be able to give everyone's desire, this also includes the accomplishment of their own father's goals, and he is by now the sole ruler of the entire world under the House of M. Magneto is living in a clearly utopic Genosha (a place he and Charles have spent some gruelling time on during Excalibur III). However, it's worth nothing that, in this version of reality, his long-time best friend is dead. That was the price to pay for the ultimate realization of a dream he shared with the said man. And that explains why Erik Lehnsherr actually looks miserable, in spite of getting everything he desired since the beginning; a peaceful world where mutants are the majority while his family is intact. That should be suffice to explain why he was so goddamn infuriated when he found out what Pietro and Wanda did. So my question is--and please, hear this on every level--HOW WOULD ANYONE EXPECT HIM TO LIVE IN A WORLD WITHOUT CHARLES XAVIER? Add that to the list of reasons why he was angry for what the twins did. Now this is actually a plausible theory, okay? I mean, he did play house with Charles instead of informing his own children that he's not dead. It's a good thing this remains unsaid because that's just going to further piss off Pietro and Wanda. They already feel neglected as it  is and for years by their father. They don't want to hear the fact that he didn't even write, he didn't even call, but rather just straight-up eloped with his boyfriend in Genosha and continued to fake his death. YIKES.

Look at this miserable sack of sad shit. He wanted to rule the world but not without his oldest friend by his side.

Back to more serious matters: it looks like Magneto can still hurt his children worse that he already has which sucks sweaty donkey balls because he had all these heartfelt retrospection in Claremont's Excalibur III where he wants to be a better father and all that. So what the fucking fuckity fuck did you just do, Mags? Look, I get you're mad that Pietro and Wanda seem to think that a world without your boyfriend Chuck is something you desire the most, but it's not like you were ever open about that relationship with them. Also, don't be a fucking hypocrite and scold them for their arrogance because they believe they are better than everyone else. YOU GODDAMN TAUGHT THEM THAT, JERK. Clearly, this will piss off Wanda because it's not like she has any idea that Magneto has undergone some thoughtful changes in his outlook and philosophy during his stay in Gensoha with Charles. So hearing him say bullshit like that made her skin crawl.


FUCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK!!!! Consider it a blessing that Charles is not alive to see what you have done, Erik!

So after Wanda resurrects her bro, she has every right to vehemently call out Magneto right there and then:

Driven to despair and already fragile and remorseful, Magneto hammers the last nail on Wanda's proverbial coffin of sanity by murdering her brother in front of her so now she makes this grand proclamation that I believe was only uttered as a whisper but with a level of apathy and reverence that would chill anyone who reads it:

And the Scarlet Witch proceeds to remake the world again, depowering almost every mutant across the world, leaving only a scattered few with their powers still intact, including some of the adult X-Men while the students of Xavier School were not even spared. Even Magneto can't even move a fucking fork. And it serves him right. Wanda's utter decimation of mutantkind made Cassandra Nova and the Sentinels laying Genosha to waste before seem like a practical joke. What Wanda Maximoff did was just...frightening and borne out of sadness and a desperation for love, just as Charles had said in the final issue of Excalibur III. All she and her brother ever wanted was a father and a family where they could be accepted and truly belong to. They tried to find these things with the Avengers and in making the world a better place--but the one person whom they wanted love and affection from the most, their own father, considered to be a terrorist and a hard man through and through, has failed to give them that, and then hurt them in ways that can never heal. And so this is Wanda lashing out for the last time, which also happened to tragically affect everyone else in the process.

At its core, M-Day just proves that the world as we know it can end not with a bang but with a whimper.

An exemplary and well-crafted tale that is briskly paced and shocking, House of M is an enduring comic book you must have on your shelf. I might get around to reading the crossover titles for this arc some time but for now I would like to focus on reading and reviewing the next chapter of this game-changing event, more specifically Deadly Genesis, Messiah Complex and Second Coming volumes. I won't be updating my X-Men reviews this holy week because I'm going on a family trip but I'll also be reading Magneto Testament which is a rather gruesome material about young Erik's time at the Nazi camps which I considered only appropriate to browse after reading this.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

X-Men: Excalibur III by Chris Claremont issue #12-14

Are you all ready for this? BECAUSE I HONESTLY AM NOT.

The final arc for Chris Claremont's Excalibur III is called The Devil's Own and it runs for four issues (#11-14) which are also considered as preludes to the House of M storyline by Brian Michael Bendis (which is the next series I'll be reading the fuck out of, and you better believe it), particularly the last issue which was the finale; otherwise known as a twenty-eight paged massacre of all my shippy feelings for Charles and Erik, all bundled in one convenient package of Claremont-styled cheestastic narrative and dialogue exchanges. I've been reading nothing but Claremont since January of this year and it's hard to believe this is the very last X-Men of his I'll be perusing (until Age of Apocalypse, that is, which I scheduled during a midyear). Nevertheless, I am more than happy to end on this note. Excalibur III was sad and tragic and everything definitive in what I've always believed and cherished regarding the relationship between Professor X and Magneto. I maintain from here on out that Claremont is probably the only writer who can capture the beautiful subtleties of their friendship and baggage of losses, shame and guilt. The characterizations for their respective characters have almost destroyed me at times.

Now I have some heavy-duty investment on this last volume of this series, so my perfect rating is unbelievably based on that because I cannot force myself to be objective and detached from a story that spoke volumes to me. I will never apologize about the singular truth that I LOVE CHARLES XAVIER AND ERIK LEHNSHERR as characters and as a pairing so much. Hence, please be warned that this review contains some of the most dramatic insights I will ever publish online concerning the depths of love that I have for this uniquely devastating relationship.

Let me just warm up to that calvary. First, I'll glaze over the twelfth and thirteenth issues which is a separate plot concerning the supporting characters Callisto, Karima and Shola who decided to help out the new X-Men during an attack in New York City where they have to fight Viper and some of her allies. I thought that this plot thread was interesting enough, loaded with action, great character interaction and development, as well as a surprise twist concerning the nefarious aims of Courtney Ross, the new White Queen to the Hellfire Club, who apparently is eager to provide finance on Genosha, believing this will give her an opportunity to seize it under her control. That is a hell of a bad news for Charles and Erik who have just appointed themselves as the liberators of this island which is essentially what Excalibur III has been centered aorund.

Since her appearance in the second issue, Callisto has been consistently impressive for this. She may have some grit but there's a surprising warmth to her presence that makes her readable and fun. She's got style, a snarky attitude and tons of wonderful chemistry with almost everyone including Charles and especially with Karima and Shola. The three of them, accompanied reluctantly by the teenage teleporter Hub, are amazing as a unit, fighting the bad guys and helping the X-Men with everything they've got. These people have only known each other for a short time but they already have a sense of camaraderie together which actually isn't forced. I believe these three naturally gravitated towards one another because they want to do good and they know they can never do it alone. Their strengths and weaknesses in combat and leadership style balance together and I would love to read more about them in another title if there's ever going to be a spin-off.

Another noteworthy character is Archangel who is put in a more assertive position as he tries to lead the team of the X-Men who responded to the crisis in New York. It was nice that when all the commotion has been diverted, these heroes' actions were acknowledged by the general public. That's a sweet, touching wrap-up which seamlessly led to the much bigger story concerning Charles who has been trying to telepathically heal Wanda (Scarlet Witch and Magneto's daughter) for six months now since we last read his conversation with Erik in issue #11, but with no clear results. Desperate, he sought out the help of his old friend Stephen Strange, also known as Dr. Strange.

This is where we arrive to the momentous finale of this series which jump-starts the House of M storyline by Bendis later on.

First of all, my imagination has created the fantasy that the versions who are playing out this story are James McAvoy as Prof X and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, and you best leave this innocent delusion at that, okay? So let's proceed.

After Charles makes a telepathic contact with Stephen (he's still in Genosha at this point), we open issue #14 with a visit from his past, a memory lane in particular, when he used to be in the military. If this seems odd at first because we all know the professor as a pacifist, then it might make more sense if you accept his explanation that he considered himself as a shepherd rather than a soldier, whose primary aim is to find the lost flock and bring them back home to America. It was only when Stephen finally appeared when Charles realized that this was all a telepathic reminisce and that he is currently still in Genosha, tending to Wanda Maximoff's mental health. With Stephen guiding him inside the astral plane, Charles began to contemplate about the things he's been repressing for so long, and no one is as keen on repression like Charles Xavier. Check out this revealing set of panels:

In short: as Charles struggles to mend Wanda through mental contact, she herself is blocking him  through channelling scenarios from his past she knows will be able to keep him preoccupied. As the Scarlet Witch, she has the ability to bend dimensions to her will including the astral plane so it's no surprise that she can manipulate Charles to a certain extent. She's resisting his help and by exposing him to his greatest regrets via mindscape, he's rendered unable to help her recover. It's a good thing Dr. Strange was here to remind him of his current goal and not to get lost in the winding pathways of his own mistakes. Basically, Stephen wants him to recognize the crippling effect of his guilt which is what is stopping him from getting through Wanda in the first place. How can he hope to save her when he is just as lost as she is? So, aside from this free therapy session with the Sorcerer Supreme, these two also talk about Erik. A LOT. Erik, after all, is the source of most of Charles' perceived failures. Here is a rather harrowing example of that:

"I believe in him, Stephen. To the core of my being, I believe he is fundamentally a good and decent man." *sniffs* Dammit, Charles. Why do you cling so tightly on Erik's capacity to grow and change like this, to his inherent sense of goodness and light, even when you know how much darkness and chaos he has brought to the world? If our actions and choices are the things that define our lives and whether or not we are good or bad people, then Erik is definitely a complicated mixed bag of both. BUT CHARLES LOVES HIM ANYWAY. He has faith in Erik, an unshakeable one that allows him to welcome and forgive his friend so many times, no matter how rotten things get because of Magneto's unflinching dedication to his extremist ways of mutant superiority.

Why even bother, Dr. Strange inquires, loving someone so damaged who spent almost two decades of his life retaliating against his perceived tormentors, the 'inferior' homo sapiens as he, Magneto, personally deemed? And Charles' response was that all the things Erik committed later on in life was because of his experiences in the past when he only knew humanity in the darkest time of history, as a Jewish boy in a Nazi prison camp. He was tasked to haul bodies from gas chambers to the crematorium; these are people whom he may have known as neighbors, distant relatives--people who were discriminated against because they are thought to be different and therefore deserved to be oppressed. Witnessing hideous things has made him hideous but this doesn't mean he was worthy of hatred and scorn. Charles only believed someone like Erik Lehnsherr is worthy of his love because Charles is pathologically a martyr who finds relevance and joy in helping people, even to a fault. That's why these two are quite perfect for one another. Is it unhealthy in the long run? Won't they be better off without hanging onto each other since they merely go around in circles of break up, make up and break up again? Possibly. But neither of them would have made it this far if it wasn't for the fact that their friendship--even their conflicts, frustrations and disappointments--gave them purpose. Erik strives to be a better man for Charles' sake and Charles never stops believing Erik could be saved.

As much as the conversation is Erik-centric at times, this issue still delves into Charles' own psyche which was why we get these panels featuring his ex-girlfriend Gabirelle Heller whom he met around the same time as Erik back in an Israel hospital for Nazi survivors. Gaby was a catatonic patient whom Charles healed through telepathy AND THEN STARTED DATING. That is as creepy and amoral as it sounds. I'm so relieved that Charles finally owned up to that, admitting that he was guilty of taking advantage of Gaby at her weakest moment.

Being able to reconcile with that, Charles finally did something he has refused to do for so long, which is to forgive himself for being just another flawed man. See, Charles wants to believe he is always doing good because his intentions are noble most of the time but history has shown that he is just as capable of deception, secrets and detachment; inflicting indirect pain and stress on his own students which was why it makes sense that some of the X-Men have learned to trust him less lately, even Scott (Cyclops) who is more or less his surrogate son. This even soured once they found out he ran off with Magneto whom they all believed is dead. Heck, Charles even held a funeral even though they vehemently protested. It's no wonder Charles is on repression mode again, knowing he has sinned and failed his children but is far too stubborn to admit to it. He's just like Erik in that respect. Is it any wonder he wants to believe Erik can change because that means perhaps he too can repair his relationships with the ones he love? So after that reconciliation, he comes back to the present in Genosha with Erik tending to his daughter Wanda. HENCE BEGAN THE MOST HEARBREAKING 'BREAK-UP' BETWEEN THE TWO YET:

"Old patterns. Automatic responses.  This is the way it's always been between us."

NO. JUST NO. GODDAMN FUCKING NOPE, NOPE, NOPE! Also, Erik was reading The Once and Future King.

"Don't leave me, Charles!"

"I'd want to know if you're truly the man I thought you were all these years OR SIMPLY REPRESENTING THE FALSE HOPES OF MY YOUTH."

Why does this exchange remind me of this scene in X-Men: First Class otherwise known as a CRIME AGAINST THE HEART?:

LOOK AT THOSE MEN LOOKING AT EACH OTHER WITH THAT FORLORN EXPRESSION! If you're suddenly hearing the chorus to Adele's "Rolling the Deep" while reading this issue, particularly with the panels above, then don't worry, you're not alone. YOU ARE GOING INSANE AND I AM HERE TO HOLD YOUR HAND THROUGH THE MADNESS, and sing the song along with you.

I am frankly exhausted as I type this. I think I reached my Cherik quota for the day with this review. So I'm just going to leave you with this final page of issue #14 where Charles once again defends Erik by saying the cheesiest and heartwarming of justifications ever as Dr. Strange weighs in. This conversation would be even more awesome and painful if you imagine James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch having it. Go on. Try it. And yes, this volume (issues #11-14) have a perfect rating for me for very subjective reasons. I will not apologize for any of them!


Monday, March 23, 2015

X-Men: Excalibur III by Chris Claremont volume 2

Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) are long-time friends who only became political enemies because of ideological differences; the former seeks mutant equality and co-existence with the rest of humankind while the other unapologetically desires for mutant superiority above all else.

Professor X is an eternal optimist who is always willing to see the best in everyone while the Magneto is a child of the Holocaust who witnessed the worst imaginable case of oppressing minorities during the second World War. This makes their relationship a rather stressful one--a never-ending cycle of screw-ups and hurt feelings--where both parties try and try and try and fail and fail and fail to reach a compromise. When all is said and done, one thing  for certain remains, however: Prof X and Mags may be on opposing sides at all times but Charles and Erik can never give up on each other as friends.

If you're like me and a good quarter of the X-Men fandom, you think that they're totes and obviously head over heels in love and that's actually a very acceptable angle. Throughout the comics, their relationship has been delivered and interpreted in various ways but the most recurring theme of which is the fact that THEY KEEP COMING BACK TO EACH OTHER and that THEY HAVE IMMENSE DEPTH OF RESPECT, COMPASSION AND UNDERSTANDING FOR ONE ANOTHER'S FLAWS AND DREAMS.

 Xavier and Lehnsherr are simply destined to fight and make up, break each other's heart and then forgive each other in the end. AND I LOVE-HATE IT ALL THE SAME! Chris Claremont's third volume of Excalibur seems to operate with this level of crazy shippy angst and cheese. This second collection is comprised of two arcs, Food Fight (#5-7) and Saturday Night Fever (#8-10), which are baffling titles that don't fit any of their content at all.

Still, this volume was fun. I'm only reading this series because of all the amazing Cherik moments in between but the story arcs themselves are passable. There are some genuinely interesting and enjoyable issues herein. We get the introduction of Dark Beast and the tandem of Callisto and Karima the Omega Sentinel. We also get great flashbacks about Erik's questionable past and regrettable actions. The real kicker for this volume, however, is that it's a prequel to the events that are about to take place in the widely-acclaimed storyline House of M. In issues #8-10, we get to see Erik exposing himself as Magneto to the Avengers just to rescue his daughter Wanda (Scarlet Witch) when she went crazy and almost killed her comrades. At this point, the world believes Magneto is dead and Erik's decision to reveal himself to the heroes meant endangering the cause he and Charles eloped to Genosha for. So Charles is understandably really pissed about this but he had no other choice but to make the most of a terrible situation. BECAUSE THEIR LOVE CAN CONQUER ALL, DAMMIT! Don't you dare disagree!

Here be the blurbs for the second volume:

Issue #5 --> In which CHARLES IS TOPLESS AND WEARING MAGENTA PINK BOXER SHORTS and Callisto snogs him. Also the issue where Charles proclaims ERIK IS HIS SOULMATE NOW AND FOREVER AMEN

Issue #6 --> In which CHARLES IS TOPLESS AND WEARING MAGENTA PINK BOXER SHORTS and Erik disguises himself as Charles' cousin, Michael. Also the issue where Dark Beast is first introduced

Issue #7 --> In which CHARLES IS TOPLESS AND WEARING MAGENTA PINK BOXER SHORTS and no one would cover him up even while he's soaking under the rain. Also the issue where Cherik agree on the new terms of their second marriage

Issue #8 --> In which EVERYTHNG START TO FALL APART--Charles confesses that he still distrusts Erik while Erik went ahead and proved why Charles was actually right to do so

Issue #9 --> In which Charles and Erik remain separated and Erik tends to his daughter while Charles attends to his duties in Genosha

Issue #10 --> In which Charles discovers what Erik has done, risking the safety of Genosha along with it. Also the issue where Callisto and Karima kick so much ass


Friday, March 20, 2015

X-Men: Excalibur III by Chris Claremont issue #11

Previously in Excalibur III: After finding some solidarity among the select mutants in Genosha who are willing to lend some hand in repairing it, it looks like Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr are accomplishing their primary goal together. But after Charles leaves with Callisto to find more mutants to join their crusade, an upsetting news reaches Erik regarding the Avengers. His own daughter, the Scarlet Witch, is a member of that team, and Erik was forced to reveal himself as Magneto in order to save her especially when he discovered that she was the one responsible for almost killing her fellow Avengers.

After spiriting her away to Genosha, Erik knows he had committed a fatal mistake and a betrayal to what he promised to Charles. Magneto is considered a terrorist, and now that the other Avengers know that he lives when he was supposed to be dead, there is now no way of knowing when they'll hunt him down again and this could only mean that will be following him right into the haven he and Charles had created together only for a few days.

In the last issue, Erik finally decides to face the music and sends a message to fetch for Charles so he explain himself. His long-time best friend and husband of sorts arrives to their house (which Erik surrounded with a force field), and is shocked to learn what Erik has done. This is the first installment of the final story arc entitled The Devil's Own. There is only one Cherik scene for this issue but it would be something I plan on discussing in length later on. Before that, I want to talk about the other percentage that this issue covers which was actually an exciting mix of conflict in New York and Genosha.

The opening pages were set six months ago with Courtney Ross, the new White Queen, and her henchwoman Viper talking about schemes and whatnot. Later in the issue we see the fruition of those plans somehow with the new X-Men led by Angel. Their was a vicious attack and some fight scenes to be had and I could barely keep up because I know that this story might be in direct consequence of whatever is happening in the other titles (most probably in The Uncanny X-Men). Still, it was quite fun to read.

Meanwhile, Callisto, Shola and Karima started talking about Erik expressing some understandable concerns especially now that they are pretty much hiding the Scarlet Witch even if it's as reluctant allies. And then Dark Beast, now all bandaged up and healing nicely, joins the conversation and talks about how impressive and dangerous the Scarlet Witch's powers are, much more so than Magneto's.

He also manages to give this insightful nugget:
Yikes, what a frightening thought indeed. Afterwards, they received news through Broadband that an attack on the X-Men is taking place in New York. Callisto volunteers herself to help out and Shola and Karima also decided that they should assist her. Callisto didn't feel lie asking Charles' permission anyway since they're adults (and she probably didn't want to get between the marital disagreement happening inside the house anyway) so the three of them left Genosha to fight alongside the X-Men, employing the help of the teleporter Hub. This means that the kids are left to watch out after their neighborhood, with the librarian Book and Dark Beast as the only adult BUT DID I NOT MENTION HE IS 'DARK' BEAST? Are they really confident enough to trust him? Also, Unus the Untouchable is still waiting for the right opportunity to be an asshole and try to assert some control again. This should be worrisome but now that I think about it, I'm sure even Wicked and Freakshow can beat him up again. Can't he just die already? He's so useless and boring and I don't care much for him appearing in the issues.

Now let's talk about Charles and Erik.

In the final page of the previous issue, Erik reveals to Charles that he just went out to carry his daughter away, all the while wearing his Magneto uniform, all damnable helmet and sassy cape. Charles, understandably, freaks out a little bit, anxious of the possibility that the Avengers might track Erik down all the way to Genosha, risking the security and exposing everything which would ruin everything they worked for in the last few days. Here is the rest of their discussion about that:

TRANSLATION: "Fucking god, Erik! You always do this every time I don't keep an eye on you. You big queen. You and your rash decisions. And I always have to clean up after you. Is it even surprising why my students don't approve of my relationship with you? You can be truly toxic without making much of an effort of it, do you know that? Is this how it's going to be like from now on? I never should have eloped with you! And stop distracting me by stripping off your costume like that! It's not going to work this time!"

TRANSLATION: "Shut your face! You're the big queen! You may have been a teacher for two decades but you've never been a father. Sure, you had bastard children roaming around somewhere. And let's not even talk about Onslaught because that shit is just too hard to explain to anybody. But the bottom line is that you don't understand how much I feel responsible for another person aside from myself. I was supposed to be there for Wanda and I don't want to make the same mistake again and abandon her when she needs me the most!"

TRANSLATION: "ME? Not understand how to feel responsible for another person? Not being there for that person before when I was needed the most? Not wishing to abandon said person again in a time of crisis? Erik, I MARRIED YOU for those reasons, goddamn you! Also because you're such a bloody fool and I'm a sucker for damaged goods. Whether we want to or not, we're stuck together."
I thought the gesture of destroying the helmet in front of Charles was meaningful and Charles noticeably softened after witnessing that and hearing Erik admit to his failures as a father, and about needing a better legacy. Erik also taking off his costume while arguing with Charles was symbolic too. It meant that he was no longer guarding himself from Charles like before; that he has no need to be Magneto when facing his friend and partner. This was a rather heated conversation but they managed to smooth things down readily which was just nice. That last panel of Erik imploring Charles' help was so sweet and Charles, of course, will try again for Erik. He can never deny Erik of anything, really.

One moment they're screaming their hearts out, exchanging words of frustration and grief, and the next Erik is asking Charles if he's okay because he looks tired and Charles is agreeing to lend Erik with any help he requires for his current cavalry. Some things are just consistent with these two and the one thing that never fails to amuse, move and surprise me is how much patience and love they have for each other that even when they are ready to hate each other's guts and swear each other off, something gives and they eventually make up. I think they realize that neither of them is getting any younger and it'd be wasteful to dwell on their disappointments and wishful thinking about what their relationship is supposed to be about. What matters is that what they have now is always going to be messy, always going to be tested and challenged by other people and by themselves, but it's all going to be worth it because loving someone is supposed to be hard work. And they are old enough to know that there's nothing else in the world they'd rather be doing than fight and improve one another.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

X-Men: Excalibur III by Chris Claremont issue #10

Casting Fate was a pretty cool issue because much of the action dwelled a lot on the supporting characters and their troubles, particularly that of Callisto and Karima as they joined forces to see who or what had attacked Dark Beast and the Magistrates last issue while they were exploring underground, and trying to get to some weaponry and arsenal as requested by Charles and Erik. Dark Beast (Sir D-Beastie) is barely hanging in there which got everyone worried because who knows what creatures lurk underground that can overpower him. So Calllisto and Karima decided to check it out, most especially after Wicked got injured when she tried to see below by channelling a spirit.

This is the second issue where Charles and Erik remain separated which is already killing me so I was glad when we got to the end and Charles finally does come around their honeymoon suite house to check up on him. Anyway, back to Callisto and Karima first. Their scenes are the major focal point that this issue was about which was actually pretty cool and exciting to read about. I thought these ladies are impressive as a pair and they are more than competent when it comes to kicking ass. I was afraid for their lives, however, because for a while it looks as if they were being overpowered but both gals managed to pull through  by the eleventh hour and I have never been so relieved! I am enjoying Callisto's overall presence and participation in the story. She's daring, assertive and outspoken, if need be.

On the other hand, I want to read more about Karima's internal struggle regarding her humanity in a slippery slope because her being part-Sentinel may take over any time and there's a danger to that, considering she's working with mutants. I'm quite surprise that the others are able to trust her and it would really, really suck if he suddenly turns on them. I think that might happen for the sake of drama and character development and I'm alright with that.

Meanwhile, Shola is taking charge of facilitating order with the help of the youngsters. Hub is basically functioning as either a mode of transportation or a message courier; the latter role of which is forcibly given by Erik who is now in his Magneto costume. I'm surprised Hub didn't even recognize who he is or perhaps she's too young to know about Magneto. After she got some first aid for Wicked and Sir D-Beastie, Magneto also commanded her to pass a message to Charles the next time she sees him, and she obliged. Charles eventually does return to their neighbourhood, worried about leaving Callisto and Karima by themselves underground but he has no way of contact because his telepathy is blocked by the catacombs down there. So he opted to handle what he can which was to meet his husband in their house. Shola accompanies him, explaining that Erik pretty much surrounded the place with a  force field so none of them can come in. Charles knew that's not a good sign because when Erik shuts out outside contact, something is terribly amiss. Shola offered to try to penetrate through it but Charles simply asked him to leave so he can deal with his marital problems with Erik. Check out this panel:

 After Charles observes the fact that Erik just fixed their housing problems (some general maintenance like electricity, etc.), he can't help but wonder if whatever mess Erik got himself into would be up to Charles once more to help repair. "The man I left, I considered a friend." I do believe there's an upsetting degree of difficulty to stay friends with a man like Erik Lehnsherr so it's astounding how Charles can put up with any of his crap, particularly when you consider the atrocities he had committed in the name of mutant superiority. It's really shocking how either of them--especially Charles--can care about each other when one opposes the other's ideologies and goals. Their relationship seems to thrive on dysfunction, however. The more dire their circumstances, and the more helpless it may seem to form any discernible reconciliation, that's the moment Charles and Erik always manage to be there to offer comfort or support when it matters the most. These moments have happened throughout the comics. Now it's great that they remain this attached to one another, but it's also quite exhausting to stay friends with someone who is so much of an inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. And yet both of them allows this inconvenience--treasure it even--in the rarest of moments whenever it's in their reach because I think they're familiar enough with their history to know that there is no way of knowing when would be the next they'll lose each other again. They're doomed to repeat that cycle of screw-ups and hurt feelings.

Two issues ago, Charles expressed to Callisto that they must all be prepared in case Erik decided to switch sides and be the bad guy again and I thought that was rather depressing to think about your supposedly longest friend, but he does have a point. Erik did do something impulsive without weighing the effects this may have on Charles and their purpose in Genosha. The only difference now is I think Erik harmed their cause to save his daughter which is a noble gesture but it's still selfish and reckless. This was supposed to be their final reunion, a second honeymoon and a chance to make their marriage work. And I don't mean they're married in just the shippy sense; I also meant as partners and leaders of a brand new world--this is the very first time their politics have aligned and nothing should prevent them from becoming the ultimate power couple--except, of course, Erik's insistence to do things his way and his way alone. I think that's mainly their problem. The X-Men: First Class film did a fine job to illustrate the ways Erik tends to fail Charles. He claims to want Charles by his side but it's him who goes about things his way without even considering Charles' opinion about it. And that's not a partnership, let alone a marriage.

This is why I'm so hurt by Erik's decision for this series, even though it was for the sake of his daughter's safety. I think whatever Charles and Erik have--platonic, romantic, whatever--is fundamentally flawed because they cancel each other out. It's not just the mere fact of not wanting the same things (which I think is utter shite; time and time again we see that THEY NOT ONLY WANT THE SAME THINGS--THEY ALSO WANT THEM WITH EACH OTHER), it's the barrier of communication, their inherent stubbornness not to see things in the other person's perspective, and outside factors that are beyond their control, that make their relationship so doomed. *bites lower lip, fighting back tears*

There's always something coming between them

I'm going to be unloading more of my feels in next issue's review.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

X-Men: Excalibur III by Chris Claremont issue #9

I'm reading and reviewing the Excalibur III series mainly because it's Chris Claremont writing about Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr who are known to be publicly sworn allies but are secretly married whether you choose to accept the subtext in their relationship or not. This series explored exactly that dynamic, and for eight issues it has been quite an endearing journey to glimpse at the possibility of these old dorks finally trying to work out their issues so they can take a united stand as each other's partner. They aim to repair the damage done to Genosha, an island that has sheltered a community of mutants for a long time. Charles' evil twin sister Cassandra Nova has laid it to waste using the Sentinels. He still feels guilty of that.

After leaving the X-Men in New York so he can go to Genosha, Charles also rendezvous with Erik at a time when the rest of the world believes Magneto is dead. He had been in hiding, and as soon as Charles contacted him, Erik decides to welcome his old friend readily, and hence began the second honeymoon between the overdue reunion between these estranged husbands. I know I'm putting my own deranged spin on it when I declare that but, seriously, these men do have a deep understanding and respect for each other and I simply chose to see it as being more platonic. But the love is there nonetheless.

Like any marriage, theirs have its own setbacks and challenges. The appearance of Callisto was stressful at first because she expressed immediate disapproval upon learning the truth, claiming that Charles was a fool for abandoning his team in exchange of living with Erik in Genosha even if his intentions are pure. Later on, Callisto softens her opinions about Erik after she saw that his actions have been for the best of everyone's interest, most especially (I believe) when she saw for herself that his devotion for Charles is strong and steadfast. After going through some ordeal of conflict (getting attacked by Unus the Untouchabe jerkwad; then getting abducted by trolls and pirate thieves while Charles was topless and only wearing magenta-pink boxers), the husbands separated last issue so they can do their own thing.

But Charles being gone was rather unfortunately timed. Erik receives news that the Avengers' Mansion was burnt down and he had to risk going back to ensure his children (twins Wando and Pietro, members of the Avengers themselves) are safe. Not heeding Shola's advice, Erik maintains that perhaps he is not allowed to change after all. He left and then returned to Genosa with the unconscious Wanda (Scarlet Witch) in his arms as he reveals himself to be clad by his Magneto costume once more. On the other hand, Charles admits to Callisto that he's been feeling rather unsettled, believing that Erik will betray him yet again which is rather unfair. Though Erik technically went out of his way once more to endanger not just himself but Genosha, he did this for the noblest reasons--to save his daughter from the destruction of her own making. I hope Charles can understand that. He has forgiven Erik for way worse 'crimes'.

What is the Life that Late I Led opens with eight pages of flashback about Erik's life with his wife Magda and daughter Anya. When the latter died on a fire, Erik reveals his mutant's powers much to the fear and despair of his wife who then left him, believing he was a monster. Later on he met the twins Wanda and Pietro and they joined him in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and he found out much later on that they were in fact his own children out of the wedlock. We then fast forward to Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, losing control and almost killing her comrades, the Avengers, and Erik whisking her away as Magneto right in front of Captain America himself. The rest of the pages is composed of Dark Beast (Sir D-Beastie, as I fondly call him) and the Magistrates fulfilling their end of the bargain by going down the tunnels where there are some weaponry and arsenal. However, they were viciously attacked, leaving only Sir D-Beastie as a survivor but he was barely hanging on.

Meanwhile, Callisto and Charles found some children in one of the wreckages and they made contact with the teleporter Hub from the last issues. She helped transfer the children to the neighborhood where Shola and Wicked have prepared some huts to live in. No one has yet to tell Charles what Erik has been up to and it almost killed me that I went ahead and read the next issue because I just can't wait to see how Charles is going to react. Overall, the issue was greatly paced with enough sidestories to keep you intrigued. Every supporting character is being developed now although I definitely want more characterizations if they will ever have any impact for me in the long run. I dread and anticipate my review for the next installment because there are some great Cherik moments in it I would discuss once more.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

X-Men: Excalibur III by Chris Claremont issue #8

Claremont presents yet another bafflingly entitled story arc, Saturday Night Fever which begins with the husbands employing the help of Shola and Freakshow to repair the neighborhood they live in which was actually pretty nice. Mags and Wicked also continue to bond as she aids him in finding useful items in various empty buildings through the use of her control on spirits, as Charles tries to seek some sort of peaceful arrangement with Unus the Unbreakable who flat-out refuses any kind of allegiance because he's an immature brat who thinks he has to be the boss of everything. That kind of self-serving cuntitude should get him killed. CROSS-FINGERS, EVERYONE!

On the flipside, Karima the Omega Sentinel whose humanity has been restored fully by the husbands, busied herself by guarding the prisons were a bunch of Magistrates, thieves, trolls and Sir D-Beastie reside. She and said gallant monster had a fascinating conversation as she tries to convince the Magistrates and trolls to join them instead of fighting against them. Trolls, being trolls, attacked her and she was strong enough to fend them off. A telepathic apparition of Charles appeared and tried to negotiate some terms again. Unlike with Unus, this time the other parties have seen reason and they collectively agree to help out. This is all done in goodwill of rebuilding Genosha. I don't trust them though.

We were introduced to another pair of mutants, Broadband and Book who function basically as their names imply. Shola was able to tap into the water channel but the waters in Genosha are apparently contaminated. Back in the house, the husbands and Callisto talk about new strategies and Charles expresses regret and a desire for atonement after what his evil twin sister Cassandra Nova has done (she and the Sentinels almost successfully obliterated the populace in Genosha). Trimmed down in numbers, it's no wonder the husbands are forced to employ help even from their rivals.

Charles then suggested that he should have to make a more physical contact with other surviving mutants scattered across Genosha and asked Mags to be in charge while he's gone off with Callisto. Right before the new BFFs leave to take care of some things, they had this great referential conversation to The Once and Future King by T.H White which is, of course, the husbands' favorite novel:

Callisto calling Charles King Arthur was a hoot and the fact that Chuck was quick to dismiss it and label himself as Uther Pendragon instead was very telling; yet Callisto corrects him immediately and assigns Magneto to the Uther role (for obvious reasons) so Charles decides to revert back to the mentor role of Merlyn and he now believes he is looking for a rightful ruler who will be the perfect fit for a more compassionate and wise leadership role, which is just endearing and accurate in so many levels. It just makes me giddy that they make these references. This series is entitled Excalibur after all so of course there has to be some mentions of the lore.

So after they piggy-back away, Mags was left with Shola and the teenagers who decided to watch some show using Broadband's powers. Shola and Mags have some chat as they combine their powers to build some shelters around the neighborhood. Mags gets yet another reflective flashback concerning his late daughter Anya which was rather timely because here comes a national broadcast featuring the Avengers' headquarters where it was reported that someone torched the place and that there are confirmed casualties. Obviously, Mags is worried because his children Pietro and Wanda (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch respectively) are members of the Avengers and he has to know if they are still alive. Shola strongly advises him against it. He is in hiding after all. The world believes Magneto is dead. But Mags cannot be swayed because he is once again very furious of the possibility that someone he loves is in danger and if that is indeed true then vengeance is the only route he must take. And--just like that--he was gone. Look at these panels. It made me go, "Oh, Erikkkkk...."

On the other side of the city, Charles and Callisto stumbled upon a wreckage as they try to find surviving mutants they can recruit and protect. Charles pointed out that there are dead zones in Genosha that disables him from using his telepathy. This was just another way of saying he can't keep in touch with Erik anymore which Callisto was astute enough to pick up on so she brings it up:
It made me giddy again--to hear Charles say that being inside Erik's head is a habit he will never break. And then they talk about Erik some more and the fact that he should have died but because of his powers of magnetism, he is nearly indestructible. Charles then expresses his anxiety over the extent of such powers and that it may be best that they should be prepared. NOW THIS IS DISTRESSING TO HEAR. I mean, Charles seems unable to trust Erik again WHICH DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. He eloped with the guy, for fuck's sake! He abandoned the X-Men and met up with Erik in Genosha so they can live together and work things out in Genosha by setting up a governing system which will improve the lives of mutants living there again. And then, all of a sudden, he's concerned that Erik will betray him somehow?! Well, Mags did have a history of being an unreliable twat, sure, but I thought Charles should know better by now. The one consistent thing about Erik is that HE ALWAYS FINDS HIS WAY BACK TO CHARLES. Still, I know saying this now is totally ironic, considering what Mags just did in the earlier pages (leave Genosha to go to the Avengers mansion and therefore risk revealing his identity). This makes this panel so hurtful for me:

WHAT THE FUCK, CHARLES? Callisto was the one who used to think Erik is a piece of shit but his actions throughout the issues after have proven otherwise so her opinion about him has definitely improved. Now she asserts that perhaps the only person who can keep Erik in line is Charles and that this should be enough. But then Charles disproves it by saying that though they may be married best friends, Erik could still betray him much like the Biblical brothers Cain and Abel WHICH IS JUST TOTALLY UNFAIR, Chuck! 

However, I really can't stand on that ground now, can I? Not after this bullshit happens:

Erik, you know how much Charles hates that damnable helmet! IT ONLY TOOK EIGHT ISSUES FOR ERIK TO REGRESS THIS BADLY? This is just so depressing! I was really, really hoping against all odds that Charles and Erik will stay united at least until the series ends. OR NEVER EVER FIGHT EVER AGAIN. But everything is a cycle between these two and I just feel like falling apart now. Gorrammit.

"Forgive me, Charles. Perhaps this is not the age of dreams or dreamers."

It's notable that Erik puts an emphasis on the 'dreamers' part. I think he's referring to the two of them--and to their punishingly intricate and doomed relationship. It may be his subconscious way of...*sniffs* breaking up with Charles YET AGAIN. Erik, dude, I know that you got issues but Charles is pretty messed up too. Either way, you both found out you you're nothing without each other....BECAUSE YOU BELONG TOGETHER NOW (YEAH). FOREVER UNITED HERE SOMEHOW (!) HE'S GOT A PIECE OF YOU (!) AND HONESTLY (!) YOUR LIVES WILL SUCK WITHOUT EACH OTHER!!! You stupid, beautiful idiots!!!


Monday, March 16, 2015

X-Men: Excalibur III by Chris Claremont issue #7

Dark X-Men is a thing. What is a Dark X-Men, you ask? Just read this. And this. I don't have time to explain everything to you, you know. The reason I bring this up is because a character made a surprise appearance last issue and I didn't feel like mentioning it in that review so I finally decided to reveal here who it was...and it's no other than Dark Beast who is pretty much a blue-furried Hannibal Lecter with his courteous manners, classy tastes in things, and eerie countenance in general. I find him rather refreshing to read at this point of the story because he actually has a personality even if he is a villain. OH AND CHARLES XAVIER IS STILL TOPLESS AND ONLY WEARING MAGENTA-PINK BOXERS.

Bad Moon Rising is the third instalment of the bafflingly and ridiculously entitled story arc, Food Fight. The pages open with Dark Beast (who I will now refer to as Sir D-Beastie from now on) beating the shite out of Shola who was left to fend for himself against Unus the Untouchable as the husbands, Callisto and Wicked made their escape. They didn't have any choice so poor Shola was taken to the same place the Omega Sentinel Karima was kept and Sir D-Beastie starts admiring his prisoners, particularly taking a special interest on Karima. He was going to dissect her, I believe, while listening to some Schubert. Just because Sir D-Beastie is an atrocious monster, it doesn't mean he doesn't enjoy some good ol' classical music. That's a thing now too. Apparently, a villain with such a fine taste is even more fucked up than one who listens to, say, rock music. Classical music is the mark of a more evolved and intelligent monster and Sir D-Beastie fits the bill.

Meanwhile, it's raining outside where Mags, Calisto, Charles and Wicked are just chilling. Mags hears the music and was instantly nostalgic about his time at the Nazi camps, specifically about a certain scientist who gives sweet treats to Jewish kids and also listens to classical music. In spite of the sudden grimness of the next scenes containing Mags' flashbacks, there was a great moment here where Charles (TOPLESS, MAGENTA-PINK-BOXERS-WEARING AND NOW SOAKED IN THE RAIN) asked him if he was all right. And I'm like, "I bet he wishes somebody would ask him that" because Chuckie is basically sprawled half-naked in the muddy ground while still handicapped. SOMEBODY OFFER THIS MAN A FUCKING COAT OR SOMETHING, GOD! But it gets worse and more hilarious: Freakshow, who was shot by the trolls in the previous issue, was shaken because of that experience, and Charles, being an astute teacher, offers him comfort. Nothing wrong with that...except, this is how he phrased it:

In case YOU ASSHOLES just STANDING AROUND there didn't notice--Freakshow is freezing cold! HE IS FREEZING COLD, NOT ME! AT-FUCKING-ALL. Okay?!

I don't know if this is unintentional comedy by Claremont but it's gold.

So anyway, time for more serious matters. Once again, Chuck and Calisto (but at least now joined by Freakshow) go off by themselves while leaving Mags behind. Charles says that Erik should help by comforting Wicked which he proceeds to do as soon as the other three were gone. We get these great panels that made my chest ache a bit. Leave it to Claremont to expertly shift in tonality:

 "I've tried rage. I've been mad. That's what led me here. I need another way."

Oh, Erik. Reading about him clutching a scared teenager as he contemplates his regrets from the past and hope for the future--it's just so sad and sweet. One of the reasons Magneto is such a compelling villain in the first place is because sometimes you can't help but root for him most especially when you know he's fighting for the right things no matter how wrong and violent and cruel his methods are. Next to Charles, he may seem like the devil but only if you think Professor X is a saint and he clearly demonstrates throughout the comics that he is not beyond erroneous judgment. Both men are flawed in their approach, both are uncompromising in achieving their goals even if one if more optimistic in fulfilling them than the other who always chooses to reinforce his ideologies through brutal means instead.

Another lovely moment occurs when we get flashbacks again, this time concerning Wicked's past as contrasted with Magneto's. In Erik's flashback, we see him unable to save his daughter from the fire which took her life. Meanwhile, we get Wicked in the middle of a fight with her parents when an explosion occurs, possibly killing her folks while she survived instead. The theme of powerlessness and guilt are strong in these flashbacks and I think Charles might have sensed Wicked's pain before which was why he asked Erik to stay behind and comfort her. I want to know Wicked some more after this issue, and I definitely liked her and Erik together since they're both people who feel as if that they can never take care of the people they love even if they posses powers.

On the flip side, Calisto and Charles are a great duo. This issue showcased their teamwork and chemistry during battles. Sure, Charles has to be carried around in a piggy back by Calisto (which would be emasculating but hey, MAGENTA-PINK BOXERS, people. Charles is beyond caring about his dignity at this point), but he is the brains to Calisto's brawn and they're functioning quite well together. Now I would be infuriated about the fact that these two are being consistently paired up for three issues now but I honestly don't mind it, even if Erik is often not present in the picture. I'm not threatened at all about this because Charles and Erik ALWAYS FIND A WAY BACK TO EACH OTHER, and Calisto is not necessarily an obstacle but a rather welcome addition to their tandem. She's actually fun and reliable, and always ready to kick ass. Said ass-kicking commences when she and Charles were able to infiltrate the secret lair where Shola and Karima were held captive. I mean, really, blasting Schubert has given them a certified clue as to where they were hiding in first place so it was really dumb of Sir D-Beastie to do that. A few scenes later, Karima was able to set herself free and apprehend Sir D-Beastie herself while the rest of the trolls and thieves were gathered up to be imprisoned. All is good, basically. The husbands close the issue with this moment:


"Not every battle is with a super-villain," Charles offers. And no truer words were spoken than that.

Chuck follows it up with a "take my hand" and Erik seems rather taken aback by this. And then they shake hands and Chuck announces: "This is all it takes. TWO HANDS CLASPED IN FELLOWSHIP, PLEDGING TO BUILD SOMETHING BETTER."

The take-my-hand thing, of course, reminds me of this:

Which, then, heads to this: