Tuesday, June 30, 2015

X-Men: Messiah Complex by Ed Brubaker

I had a month of laidback fun because of Jeff Parker's X-Men: First Class and I will always be thankful for that break. I almost forgot what was waiting for me once I get back to more serious works down the pipeline. As a natural progression, I was once again reading the House of M aftermath where mutants have become an endangered species and there are less than a thousand of them globally. This thirteen-issued arc with a title so shamelessly foreshadowing is where I rightfully find myself, and it wastes no time bitch-slapping me in the face in reminding me that the X-MEN universe is a collection of varied clusterfucks that I will never get tired being caught up in and incessantly discussing about said abuse in my reviews.

Messiah Complex encapsulates that experience. This is also my last story before I take a two-month hiatus to make way for Batman comics diet this July, and then Hellblazer: John Constantine on August. I've been away from these beautiful men and their compelling stories for far too long and I need to give them a chance to shine again. Originally, I wanted to end this month with the follow-up arc, Second Coming, but decided that I simply have no time to absorb another big-event arc. Messiah Complex after all has proven to be time-consuming enough. Wisely so, I timidly tucked in my raging hard-on and chose not to waste my jizz in one place. I thought it best that the Second Coming (pun intended at this point) will be my opening act once I resume in September.

So, until then, you can enjoy this particlar jizzfest below instead. Reading Messiah Complex was exhilarating but it also had me freaking out slightly on certain aspects. There is a central conflict that holds together a series of subplots within it and it could get wonky tracking them all down so I decided to illustrate them in a diagram for my convenience so I can touch upon all of them in this review. I will be taking a two-month hiatus so I better wrap up this month with a special post and nothing fits that bill perfectly than Messiah Complex. It span for three separate X-titles, namely Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, New X-Men.

First off, though MC is ridiculously rife with subplots, it doesn't get bogged down by its varied ensemble of characters unlike, say, the first two volumes of that forgettable Age of Apocalypse big-event in the nineties which I read last month and was barely happy about. MC was written by Ed Brubaker and is a direct follow-up to Brian Michael Bendis' House of M, and though it is just as all over the goddamn spectrum of what you can expect from a soap opera, the narrative has much more focus and fluidity than AoA. The contrast is just apparent to me because all the subplots lead back to the main plot even two or three of them can be considered distant enough to be standlone events--and everything still makes sense together as a whole. Unlike AoA. Srsly, fuck AoA. I'm a child of the nineties , sure, but FUCK AoA. It was a seventy out of a hundred percent waste of my May. BUT I DIGRESS. 

To demonstrate the breadth of this clusterfuck, behold my handwritten diagram below which I will discuss by point for the rest of this review. Please bear with me. We are going to get through this. Take note that I will only discuss the content of the first six to seven issues because I don't want to spoil the second and final act for the latet issues so you can enjoy those for yourself. Besides, the six to seven issues have already enough material to fill up an entire entry here. Now, I drew this diagram and wrote the notes around five in the morning even though I had a class at noon. And it was a compulsory need to make sense of it all which actually helped me process what to type here.



There are TEN ATTRACTIONS. Two of those are divided into halves. I will write down my shorthand notes first and then expound of them. Reading them, I realize that they look like tabloid headlines, and therefore should be treated as such. So here we go.



"Aka-chan" is the Japanese term for baby. I just want to use that name from here on because it's cute. So, presently, things are escalating shit upon shit since mutants got depowered while a few retained their powers like the X-Men. This is all thanks to Wanda Maximoff's curse to punish daddy Magneto so she remade reality so that there will be no more new mutants to manifest powers. But then a baby was born somewhere and it instantly manifested a mutation of some kind which was powerful enough to haywire Cerebra. The first issue opens with the X-Men (Cyclops, Emma, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Angel) tracking down this little miracle of life only to discover that two nihilistic groups of unforgivable assholes have beat them to it. Tough luck.



Orgies are fun. Also, unsanitary. Massacres are only fun depending on whether you're the killer or the one being killed. But to be black and white about it, massacres are bad. Also unsanitary. The Purifiers and the Marauders, in their pursuit for aka-chan, collided in one place and fucked each other up. Both sides had casualties in their short-lived, terrifying hatemaking but now the X-Men (the police who arrived late and only have to inspect the scene of the crime) need to figure out which one of these cunts have aka-chan. The Purifiers are anti-mutant cunts who want to eradicate mutants because we all know by now that genetic cleansing is historically justifiable especially for religious purposes. Aka-chan is the new antichrist, the Purifiers believe. Meanwhile, the Marauders are followers of mutant militant leader but fabulous fashion trendstarter Mr. Sinister who is still worse than Magneto on an ordinary bad day. He also just abducted Rogue, being a douchebag, and now he is after aka-chan. If his name isn't a dead giveaway already then there's no other way to stress that he cannot have that baby. Purifiers might just kill it but Mr. S will find a way to weaponize it for his own stupidly immoral agenda.

Cyclops takes his leadership role more seriously especially in the light of recent events as well as his personal issues about Professor Xavier's deception concerning his long-lost brother. Now I like Scott. I belong to the faction of fans who had always favored him even during the moments when he's less emotionally relatable.

(3.1) RICTOR, PREVIOUSLY DEPOWERED, INFILTRATES PURIFIERS so Cyclops can gather intel and keep tabs.

(3.2) CYKE ASKED FORGE TO SEND MULTIPLE MAN TO FUTURES BUT LAYLA MILLER HITCHES A RIDE.

This is one of the standalone subplots I was referring to but it is still covered for the rest of the issues. Time-travel stuff. On Cyclops' orders, Forge helps out Multiple Man (Jamie Madrox) as he sent duplicates of himself to possible futures where mutants are still endangered or what could happen if aka-chan ends up in the wrong hands. Something like that. But Layla Miller (first introduced in House of M) tags along which was not part of the plan. They have their own spin-off going on but their scenes are still relevant to the present arc.

Some time ago, the Purifiers attacked Xavier Institute of Higher Learning and killed 45 students. The pupils themselves who are now deemed the New X-Men were left to fend for themselves and a few survived. Cyke kept the Purifiers' participation a secret in the current mission to keep the kids out of the picture, but it got out anyway and now the Xavier Institute Pupils go on a reckless field trip to get back on the Purifiers and maybe secure aka-chan if they do have it. What these kids didn't anticipate is that the Purifiers hired the genetically-modified mercenaries Reavers who would have killed them all if Rictor didn't blow up his cover to intervene and order Pixie to teleport them out. Said teleportation scattered all of them in different places, barely alive.




Wolverine, Storm, Angel and Nightcrawler butt heads with the Marauders while Gambit slinkers away. Wolvie confronts him and finds out the real whereabouts of aka-chan (SEE ITEM #7 below). Mr. Sinister was pleased to know that the X-Men have yet to acquire said aka-chan after all so he is still in the game. Well, fuck.

(5.2) SENTINELS INTO NANO-SENTINELS BECAUSE WHY THE FUCK NOT?

Meanwhile, the human pilots inside the Sentinels were converted into some sort of creatures using the Nano-sentinels strain developed by Cassandra Nova, Charles' evil twin sister who has never forgiven him for eating her when they were still in their mother's womb or something. Said nano-bastards started attacking Emma, Scott, Bobby, Beast and the other students inside the mansion. This is something of another subplot that might get a larget role in the series later. Oh, and the only person who has a strain of that nano-virus is Cable so Scott is determined to get to hin since he both has the baby, and he might have triggered the conversion of the nano-sents.



WTF, Scott. It's your OWN SON. Led by Wolverine, the X-Force go on a mission to get to Cable before anybody else. If they can manage.



They haven't seen him in a while so they're not so confident if Cable has all his eggs in the basket. Meaning, if he's now a nutter. One is simply careful. But Scott, come on, it's your son. Please talk to him. And Chuck. He's kindda your dad. Stop ignoring him!



Bloody confrontations ensue. 




A monster that resembles something from Aliens vs. Predators, this hungry motherfucker eats mutants. Because that's what an endangered species needs: more creatures above them in the food chain. Predator X is a living example that things will get so much worse…with an off-chance they might get better…I guess. I pray. This is a subplot I am really hoping will not reach aka-chan.



For reference, check out the events in Deadly Genesis. His banishment is justifible. Scott has trust issues with Xavier now so he is literally telling the Professor to go to his room because he's grounded. The younger ones accuse him of passivity, neglect and abandonment which is all true because Chuck had eloped with Mags in Claremont's Excalibur III so they can rebuild Genosha. It's sad to see Chuck forced out into the sidelines as he sees that he is no longer needed or respected. In retrospect, both he and Erik let down their children and now they are suffering the consequences of those failures. There you have it. A summary of the first six or seven issues. Excited to check it out? Then go right ahead. It's engrossing enough to maintain your interest and attention span and quite an important arc since it precedes Second Coming which is another game-changer arc. See y'all back by September!!

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Friday, June 26, 2015

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker [FINALS]

Jeff Parker's X-Men: First Class found me at the time of my life where I'm getting a hang of my work as an English teacher for three years, handling children from as early as five years old to eighth grade. I've been pleasantly surrounded by these bright-minded students and all that entailed with the responsibility to educate and nurture them which can get scary too. I was very resistant to offer all my time and efforts for this vocation at first because I didn't feel like I was up to the task but now that I've gotten comfortable and very fond of my students, I realized that they're the reason why I'm at the best place in my life right now. Having the opportunity to witness and enjoy their growth and progress, both intellectually and emotionally, has been enthralling. I surmise that this must be how Charles Xavier felt about his first-class batch of graduates and this four-issued mini-series entitled FINALS served as an overall tribute to the fun-filled, delightful action/adventure of X-Men First Class which finally ended on its twenty-fourth issue, collecting four volumes in the span of two seasons of  unexpectedly comedic and touching moments among characters, their struggles to establish tolerance among the humans, and their crime-fighting adventures.

I'm giving this volume a perfect rating not for objective reasons. This series naturally does not appeal to everyone because it's pretty hard to recommended this to a lot of adults my age since it's not what you'd originally look for in an X-Men series especially when you're used to darker landscapes about social injustice and racial strife. Though not adult-oriented with the usual mature themes most X-Men titles handle, XMFC still has some emotional weight and resonance if you truly allow yourself to enjoy the roster and variety if offers that is fundamentally PG-13 harmless and quirky stories. There are times it will surprise you with its depth and understanding of the Original Core Five (OCF) which Parker revitalized from Stan Lee's sixties version. Their characterizations are immediately likable and charming and you get the clear sense that these are kids--marginalized, super-powered and unique as all hell, sure--but kids, nonetheless, who have tons of ordinary problems one might expect in their age, all the while dealing with bad guys and larger-than-life villains. If you want an X-Men series for your pre-pubescent kid or your average teenager, this one fits the bill to the tee. It has a lot in common with current Marvel titles like Ms. Marvel. It's kid-friendly but also discusses valuable things such as individuality, self-acceptance and a sense of community.



True to its title, FINALS is all about "senioritis"; the OCF are graduating but Jean Grey doesn't feel like moving on just yet, and the entire team gets subjected to her growing powers as they travel her disturbed subconscious which include some of her deepest insecurities and worst fears about the future that lies ahead. That premise sounds misleading, I know, because Parker does write all of it in a warm and humorous manner, particularly when it concerns dialogue exchanges that include Bobby Drake who remains as this series' funny guy to the boot. Finals is a tribute to all that we have read and enjoyed over the last twenty-four installments of XMFC. There are callbacks from certain storylines and arcs that were previously established before. If you're already a fan of this series from the get-go such as myself, these will be easter eggs for you. It's the accumulation of the themes and character conflicts that were touched upon all throughout the issues, most notably Scott and Jean's development as fighters and individuals, especially their ultimate role for the next batch of X-Men where they will serve as the second mentors alongside Professor X to manage the upcoming recruits. 

For four issues, it managed to tell a very compact, action-oriented story with a great message so I think this is one of my favorites and most recommended installment of the series as  whole, next to the second and third volumes of season 2.

True dat, Chuck
Technically, this won't be the last Jeff Parker story about the X-Men which applies the same hip and youthful vibe in line with the Stan Lee era of superhero-ing. There's still his take on the events for Giant-Size X-Men which, of course, deals with the fiasco that was Krakoa, and the monumental recruitment of fan-favorites Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus into the fold. I'm pretty excited to read that but I have yet to acquire my copy. So, overall, it's with prideful joy that I officially end my reviews concerning the run of X-Men: First Class. It was the needed break from all the drama, angst and soap opera twists of the usual X-Men stories I'm accustomed to, thanks to Chris Claremont's superb arcs and a few nineties classics. I may have grown up with the cartoon adaptation but suffice to say, after reading XMFC, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman and Angel are now my brand-new babies. They're the X-Men I will come back to a decade or so from now when I want to reminisce. I might even resume my podcast-listening to Danger Room which discusses all of the issues involving OCF from the original Stan Lee run--if not possibly read the stories myself. A MUST-READ, if you want something funny, relaxing and kid-friendly.


RECOMMENDED: 10/10

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

X-Men: First Class II by Jeff Parker Volume 3

One of the main reasons why my X-Men comics diet for this month of June was filled with so much laid-back fun and unexpected warmth is because of the collaborative work of writer Jeff Parker and artist Roger Cruz for this phenomenal PG-13 series I never thought I would fall in love with called X-Men: First Class. Featuring the adorable bunch of the Original Core Five (Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Angel and Iceman), this series is an updated version of the Stan Lee sixties era when times were simpler, sorta campy and Marvel superheroes like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Avengers and the X-Men are relatively new players in the game.

With a roster of two seasons, the issues ran for a total of twenty-four installments and four collected volumes. This is the last one of the batch but there's a Giant-Size issue coming up that I will review alongside the mini-series X-Men: First Class: FINALS because there truly must be a fanbase for this series and people must want some more definitive closure for Parker's re-imagining of the OCF, and that's just dandy to me.

Comprised of issues #11-16, this fourth and final volume of the run had a more invigorating storytelling that is almost at par with the previous volume. My only problem with this collection was the inclusion of the one about the "continue-teens" which was more or less a meta story about nerdy comic book readers being able to interact with the Marvelverse so they can save the day or some shit like that. It was a baffling filler issue that I advise you skip because the next ones (namely #12, 13, 14) are the most enjoyable part of the entire volume. It deals with Warren Warrington's abrupt departure from the team so he can vacation in the Land of Mists where the people wholly accept his physical mutation, and the introduction of the short-lived android Aaron who seemed to be a likely candidate as a replacement for Angel but was sadly taken out due to unlucky circumstances.

I love these three issues the most because of the way the characterizations have flourished once we started talking about mutant seclusion, loneliness and pursuit of societal acceptance which is what the X-Men is fundamentally about. For issue #12, Warren spent discovered a place that is more tolerant than ours while the rest of the X-Men were worried so they set out to find him. But Warren wasn't in any kind of trouble. In fact, he feels right at home. Everyone was welcoming and they saw his winged feature as a beautiful vessel. That was rather unexpected for him and it was the very first time he felt at ease being different, much more so than when he was among his classmates in Xavier's school. Once his friends saw for themselves how happier Warren is, they felt a bit guilty for not seeing before how lonely he must have been even among mutants, cooped up in a single place, limiting his interactions and contact from the rest of the world. The professor himself has also realized that he shouldn't obligate any of these kids to a life of crime-fighting if there is something else that makes them happy and Warren has clearly found it.

In issues #13-14, we get to see how the team adjust to the loss of a team member and how each of them copes based on their interactions with the android Aaron, notably Scott and Jean's reactions. I don't find it peculiar at all that Scott seemed cold and uncaring that Warren is no longer with them; the dude is goal-oriented and would rather dwell on what is to gain in the aftermath of something. Scott had also recently come to terms that he wants to lead his comrades this time without any of his usual self-doubt and ridiciously extreme caution. He has made that choice to stay on the course as much as Warren decides not to do the same. I think Scott respected that choice and accepts that bygones are inevitable which was why he welcomed the robot Aaron into their team easily because he trusts the professor's intentions and now is ready to treat every new event as a learning experience. He sees the X-Men foremost as an operational team who need to function at their best and I think he was simply trying to set an example. 

But Jean sees the X-Men as a family foremost and when a loved one goes way you should allow yourself to be sad. Both have a different approach on the matter which affects how they dealt with Aaron. While both Henry and Bobby are generally curious to have a robot working with them during a new mission, Jean is uncomfortable and distrustful, treating Aaron indirectly as a threat to the way things were and what she believed should stay the same. But Scott looks at the addition of Aaron as a pragmatic advantage. After all, Aaron's abilities are handy. As far as Scott is concerned, anyone who will replace Warren shouldn't need to have a personality, let alone feelings, which I know pisses Jean off even if she maintains a calm demeanor through the rest of the issue.

The last two issues featured Madam Medusa, a Fantastic Four villain, and the collaboration between Iceman and the Human Torch as they try to form their own partnership to get away from the pressures and expectations of their respective teammates. It was all good fun in the end, and this volume of X-Men: First Class had been an enthralling and pleasant ride that may be less adult-oriented in tone and themes but is guaranteed to entertain and make you laugh and even cry a little.


RECOMMENDED: 9/10

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

X-Men: First Class II by Jeff Parker Volume 2

The second volume for Jeff Parker's irresistibly fun series in its second season, continues the winning streak of finely crafted action-adventure tales centered on the promising Original Core Five (whom I fondly fall OCF). The stories included for this volume are some of my favorities in the entire title run, particularly issues #8 and #10 which dealt with some grea character exposition about Jean Grey and Scott Summers respectively. 

In issue #8 illustrated by guest artist Eric Nguyen, we see a darker take of events in the future which is probably the farthest Parker can take this general-audience series into grimmer territories, metaphorically and quite literally which was a refreshing pace for once.

While in a mission, the X-Men encounter Man-Thing and they were transported into different timelines of human history in one blink of existence at a time. There were warriors on winged horses, Nazis on ships, etc. For a time the five of them managed to fight theit way through,  that was until present and future started blending together and the team lost Bobby and Jean in the midst of the commotion. And if they don't find them before dimensions start closing up, they might lose them forever. It's an exciting race against time as they try to save their valued friends.

The real draw of this issue has to be the climactic revelations concerning the possible grim futures awaiting Jean and Bobby; worlds in which Jean becomes the Dark Phoenix as she slays everybody in her wake. Meanwhile, Bobby becomes a cruel Frost Giant and battles the Mighty Thor. The present young versions of these two somehow united with these grim future manifestations and the rest of the heroes have to find a way to pull them out while not freaking out as they watch their friends literally becomes nightmarish monsters. Fortunately enough, they were successful in saving both of them but Bobby and Jean also remembered what happened and are now going to carry those revelations from now on. It's up to them to decide if those futures will come true. After all, their choices will determine who they will become someday. 

Issue #10 is all about Scott Summers. For this installment, we finally get a story where Scott is the sole central figure which was odd in itself because you'd think a single character can't carry an entire plot by himself but if there is anyone who can do it then I suppose it has to be Scott. The reason why everyone else is out of commission is because the four youngsters got some awful case of stomach flu and Scott was already sent in a solo mission by the professor so he did not get sick. 

The professor wanted to train him separate from everyone else because he was confident in Scott's abilities and as soon as they figured out together what Cyclops is up against, Xavier maintains that he wouldn't have chosen anyone else but him. It has always been apparent that Xavier is training Scott to one day take over when he's gone so sending him out on his own was only necessary. I'm also glad that he has an open communication with Xavier here the entire time.

In this mission, Scott learns that there are dangers to always having your guard up. The truth is, he needs to be less cautious and more sensitive to other needs and to stop treating himself like a walking hazard. It's just heartbreaking that when he did eventually get over this insecurity, he gains a less than optimistic perspective on his powers and leadership and became the harsher and inflexible semi-villain he is today in comics. So I was happy to be reminded of a young Scott, brimming with potentials. I really missed this version of him and I really want to keep reading this series just so I can hold onto this Scott Summers a little longer, if possible.

This volume is definitely a stronger collection than the first one for this season.

RECOMMENDED: 9/10 

Monday, June 22, 2015

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #16

The cover should say it all--this was going to be a very wickedly fun issue. Featuring the guest appearances of the Human Torch and Spider-Man this final issue of Parker's XMFC roster was a conclusion to a rather delightful, breezy and enthralling run that leaves for more stories to be continued in the future which I sure hope so.

In fact, even though the second season has officially ended with sixteen issues, OCF will be back in a Giant-Size one and the mini series X-Men: First Class: FINALS which you will damn sure I'll be reviewing before the month of June ends. So let's finish this review together hrr and go forth to bolder horizons!

For this final installment, Jeff Parker examines the other two classic titles from Stan Lee's sixties era which were the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. These two were published and released alongside X-Men (and the Avengers). They are also arguably the more popular series which makes sense since they have already established a fanbase while the X-Men is still building up credibility, both as a comics title itself and as superheroes within their fictional universe. In this case, we see the X-Men and the Fantastic Four's youngest and most excitable members, Iceman and the Human Torch respectively, team up and fight crime in the name of badass-ness.

How does Spider-Man fit into all of this? Well, Gwen Stacy just invited Peter Parker to a pool party but he needs to stay and guard the city streets. Luckily for him, the two guys decided to step in and take the reigns from there on. Spidey was only slightly reluctant to let them do his own job but he was convinced eventually, mostly because he really wants to see Gwen in a swimsuit so he entrusts Bobby and Johnny to stop whatever supervillains decide to cause havoc in New York. 

Both Bobby and Johnny are not camera-shy and their media exploits soon reach their respective teams whose reactions primarily range from mild amusement, annoyance and shock. But the two boys were actually great together, what with their polar-opposite powers enhancing each other. All good things have to come to an end, however, when the two prove to be slighlt irresponsible and too laid-back to ever establish a stable partnership. Still, it was good while it lasted. Much like the series as a whole. See y'all in FINALS!


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #15

Professor X and the X-Men just happened to be riding their Blackbird jet plane when they picked up a distress call from an airport where a freaking flying saucer just crashed-landed. They rose to action immediately, much to Bobby's annoyance because he was really enjoying his nap when Beast threw him out the sky, clutching the younger boy with only his massive feet. Again, this greatly upsets Bobby--it's days like this that he wishes they have Angel around whenever any of them goes airborne. 

So Cyclops, Beast and Iceman get themselves landed on the saucer as it flew itself back into the air. As soon as Beast and Iceman finished their small argument about the basic laws of physics, Jean mentally takes control of the saucer (muttering quite comedically "It's just me and the saucer, thr saucer and me..."). So the saucer was grounded again and the X-Men try to see who was operating the damn thing and it turns out to be a Fantastic Four villain named Madame Medusa.

I don't know anything about her except that she has long red hair that terrifyingly elongates and ensnares enemies. Basically, bitch got magic hair. After some brief altercation, M.Medusa confesses that she is no longer in league with the bad guys and wants to understand what and who she is since she has no memories of her past nor any knowledge as to where her powers came from. She surmised that perhaps she is a mutant which intrigued the professor, of course, so he agreed to take her to their mansion, seeing as Xavier didn't pick up any threats in her subconscious.

So there's a girl other than Jean in thr household and the guys flock to her with eager curiosity. Jean, meanwhile, obviously envies Medusa's luscious long locks and tries, humorously, to get her own auburn hair long using telekenisis. I always enjoy these subtle odd behaviors from Jean whenever there is another girl around. She's so adorably awkward, alternating between fuzzing over the other girl or becoming rather stiff and clumsy in her interactions. This time it was in the latter. You can tell she's uncomfortable around Medusa while Henry is clearly smitten and acts like the perfect gentleman around her. Aside from that, I was just fine with this installment. It was nice to see Jean in such a dorky way where as Henry tries to impress a girl with his nerd skills and such. Another brilliant thing which I was so shocked by that I literally squealed was the RETURN OF WARREN WORTHINGTON. It looks like his vacation is over and he's back on the game. It was such a sweet moment to see him swoop in and scoop his three friends who were suspended in the air during a fight scene. 

I am so glad to see Angel again.  I wonder if he is staying for good...


RECOMMENDED: 7/10

Saturday, June 20, 2015

X-Men: First Class II by Jeff Parker Volume 1

This is the first volume of the second season of Jeff Parker's uber-fun and delightfully dynamic teen series X-Men: First Class, and it's quite another lovely turn-out for the heroes I deem the Original Core Five (OCF, trademark still pending). As I've mentioned in my official review of the first volume, the nineties cartoon series were my X-Men growing up, and Stan Lee's sixties fivesome used to be something I don't care for. But thanks to Jeff Parker, my opinion on that matter has entirely changed. I love my OCF to the depths of my soul! 

I just love reading Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Beast, Iceman and Angel together, taking on a variety and supervillains, criminals and the usual off-the-kilter monster-of-the-issue, while dealing with the usual problems of fitting in, making connections and embracing the unique things their respective individuality can accomplish. If you're n adult in your twenties like me, or even if you are in your thirties or forties, and you read the first collection of this series AND WERE ABSOLUTELY ENTHRALLED, then you'd be just as in a celebratory mood as I am that the title has continued on with a second season; this time running for a total of sixteen issues.

Comprised of issues #1-5 plus a special, Mutant Mayhem maintains the same balance of fluff, thrill and poignancy as the last one, putting our favorite merry band of crime-fighters in a dangerous island for a two-parter story, Jean Grey having a sisterly bonding moment with Invisible Girl of the Fantastic Four; while Bobby and Henry have a road trip together to get a clean break from all the exhausting vigilantism. It's a great volume that will appeal to the readers who were already established fans to begin with and are more than thoroughly invested to see where the OCF are headed, and hopefully to more wacky adventures and bizarre scenarios that make them grow as friends and as people, and challenge their perspective as well as relationships with one another.

For a PG-13 series with no gore or violence or grim premises and depressing pay-offs, X-Men: First Class still knows how to deliver compelling, remarkable stories by relying on its core strengths which is really about these five lovable dorks and their struggles as mutants and aspiring heroes, and how to balance their lives outside of crime-fighting and the social politics their mentor incorporates them in. It only goes to show that comics could be fun and clean while still having emotional maturity and resonance at the same time.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Thursday, June 18, 2015

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #14

This is the continuation of the previous issue which features a rather misleading cover. I really thought that the robot Aaron went on a rampage and tried to kill the X-Men. But you will find out as you read on that this was not the case at all. Much like the last issue, the momentum of the narrative's stride was maintained pretty well. This was really enjoyable most likely because I'm very invested on this Aaron android who unfortunately did not survive his confrontation with the Lava Men. But alas I'm getting ahead of myself. 

The X-Men just lost Angel who decided to stay with his aunt in the Land of Mists because he felt more accepted there than in the outside world. Henry and Bobby are probably hoping that his absence is only temporary while both Scott and Jean knew that Warren may be gone for good. However, the former is just not emotionally stirred about it unlike the latter. 

Meanwhile, an old scientist friend of Charles Xavier asked his help to train the military A.I. Aaron alongside the X-Men which the professor allowed, trusting that his students can adjust and cooperate with a substitute member for a new mission. Everyone was okay about it but Jean who simply does not want a new teammate while she's still grieving the loss of another. Aaron is very advanced and senses Jean's understandable distrust of him. Luckily for him, Henry and Bobby seemed to enjoy having a robot around to tinker stuff with. Scott also sees Aaron as a tactical advantage. 

But while in the middle of a fight with the Lava Men, Aaron malfunctions. He did get back on track in the nick of time but then the X-Men received a telepathic message from the professor that some or Aaron's fellow A.I. robots had gone berserk earlier in a military base somewhere so he asked them to keep an eye in case Aaron starts acting weird. That's a handy problem during a mission. 

Later on during a second confrontation with the Lava Men, Aaron loses it and starts displaying existential crisis while getting beaten up by Lava Men as he sacrificed himself so the others can escape. Jean, moved by a sudden moment of sympathy as Aaron melts in the lava, retrieves a mechanism of what she perceives as his brain which was to the relief of his creator. This means that his data can be restored including memories of his interactions with the X-Men. That makes me happy. I might be able to see Aaron again. Hopefully he can join the X-Men again.

There was also bonus section in this issue which features wordless panels of the gang recalling their most fond memories of Warren. It was sweet and short and very moving. We only have at least six more issues to go before XMFC ends.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #13

With Angel gone so he can live in the very accepting Land of Mists with his aunt and new girlfriend, the X-Men are
dealing with his loss in different ways. Scott seems umoved, more focused on whatever task at hand; Bobby still believes Warren is coming back in two weeks; Henry is constructing a life-size skeletal structure of a dinosaur fossil; and Jean is visibly wary of a possible new member joining their family. In this case, it's an artificial intelligence named Aaron, who is a military experiment headed by one of Charles Xavier's scientist friends.

This installment of X-Men was significantly more centered on character interaction and composition which was great because the OCF need new depth and dimension to their characterizations as individuals and as a unit, especially now thay we are in the twenty-first issue of the series (counting Vol. 1). For that development, I appreciate the scope in which this issue tackled using enough humor and subtlety just how much each X-Man is coping with Warren leaving. To some (like Bobby and Henry), the full effect of their friend's absence hasn't really sunk in. Meanwhile, Jean is the only one who is willing to acknowledge that he's gone but he doesn't have to be replaced so soon. Scott also acknowledges the loss but is more open to training a new member for future missions if there is such a need.

I don't find it peculiar at all that Scott seemed cold and uncaring that Warren is no longer with them; the dude is goal-oriented and would rather dwell on what is to gain in the aftermath of something. Scott had also recently come to terms that he wants to lead his comrades this time without any of his usual self-doubt and rridiculouslyextreme caution. He has made that choice to stay on the course as much as Warren decides not to do the same. I think Scott respected that choice and accepts that bygones are inevitable which was why he welcomed the robot Aaron into their team easily because he trusts the professor's intentions and now is ready to treat every new event as a learning experience. He sees the X-Men foremost as an operational team who need to function at their best and I think he was simply trying to set an example.

But Jean sees the X-Men as a family foremost and when a loved one goes way you should allow yourself to be sad. Both have a different approach on the matter which affects how they dealt with Aaron. While both Henry and Bobby are generally curious to have a robot working with them during a new mission, Jean is uncomfortable and distrustful, treating Aaron indirectly as a threat to the way things were and what she believed should stay the same. But Scott looks at the addition of Aaron as a pragmatic advantage. After all, Aaron's abilities are handy. As far as Scott is concerned, anyone who will replace Warren shouldn't need to have a personality, let alone feelings, which I know pisses Jean off even if she maintains a calm demeanor through the rest of the issue.

But I would assert that Scott cares more than she can imagine. He's just not outwardly emotional about it or possesses enough self-awareness to allow himself to miss a friend of theirs. So their new mission is to confront the Lava Men. But the Lava Men found them instead in a tragically convenient twist of fate. So onto the next issue!

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #12

Let's bury the lead in this review: basically, this is the last time we will see Angel and what a rather moving send-off it was! Now that I think about it, it was really only a matter of time for Warren Worthington III to leave the X-Men...and so soon at that. True to his winged nature, it's not exactly hard to believe that Warren desires freedom above everything but more than anything else he wants the freedom to roam in a place where people fully accept what he is. 

Sadly enough, being an X-Man, fighting crime, just doesn't cut it anymore. This twelfth issue of the series entitled Fly Away is definitely an emotionally resonant piece for me. After the weird story that preceded it, I was more than relieved to read something this intimate and intensely familiar as someone who always loved what the X-Men have long represented: underdogs who will never compromise their uniqueness as individuals as they fight to carve a piece in the world where they could both belong and live in harmony with others.

While Scott set out to confront a mutant serial killer somewhere in the jungle in issue #10, we get a flashback where Warren's parents paid him a visit to inform him that his favorite aunt (the same one who found them Gorilla-Man as their tour guide in issue #8 of Vol. 1) has been missing for a week in one of her exciting expeditions. He later leaves without permission from Xavier or informing his friends which peeved Jean. Luckily, she was able to communicate with him using a tracker and the two of them continue to correspond until Warren arrives in these majestic waterfalls where he discovered  a secret passage that may lead to where his aunt might be.


Upon getting inside, he was shocked to see to find the Land of Mists, a forgotten kingdom much like an Atlantis where his aunt has been staying and having a fabulous time. Warren spent hours there with her to meet the people and explore its territory. Meanwhile the rest of the X-Men were worried so they set out to find him. But Warren wasn't in any kind of trouble. In fact, he feels right at home. Everyone was welcoming and they saw his winged feature as a beautiful vessel. That was rather unexpected for him and it was the very first time he felt at ease being different, much more so than when he was among his classmates in Xavier's school. 
Once his friends saw for themselves how happier Warren is, they felt a bit guilty for not seeing before how lonely he must have been even among mutants, cooped up in a single place, limiting his interactions and contact from the rest of the world. The professor himself has also realized that he shouldn't obligate any of these kids to a life of crime-fighting if there is something else that makes them happy and Warren has clearly found it. As he eloquently explains it to Scott (who has a difference of opinion about the entire thing since he himself made a choice in issue #10 and so wanted to stay committed to their crusade as X-Men):

RECOMMENDED: 9/10

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #11

What the fuck are 'continue-teens'?

Well, whoever they are, they supposedly represent the real-life comic book readers who understand the laws and continuity lapses of superhero universes. I suppose this is Jeff Parker's attempt at meta commentary and literary style but I frankly did not give a damn. It was incomprehensible.

It's possible that the main reason why I didn't enjoy any of it was because it forced me to recall some Marvel villains who remain obscure only to me most likely because I'm not a Marvel fangirl in the first place so a fee of these characters and their overall significance to the meta-plot they are playing on goes way over my head. Shamefully so, I guess, but I couldn't google while reading this issue because I simply dislike interruptions when I read comics. Besides, right after finishing, I decided that I don't want to know more although the concept of meta teenage comic book readers helping out the X-Men does have its charm for a while.

Still, this is an issue to skip. Scott and Warren (both on individual missions) are also absent here so the OCF are incomplete so there is less interactive dynamics among them.

NOT NECESSARILY RECOMMENDED: 5/10

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #10

I have maintained a very complex and inexplicable relationship with one Scott Summers, otherwise known as the mutant Cyclops. I mean, honestly, who hasn't? Any X-Men reader and fan had, at one point in their lives, tried to understand how they feel about him because this motherfucker has never been flat on anyone's radar. He's far too much of a polarizing character to just be casually dismissed.

As the leader of the Original Core Five (I'm gonna start abbreviating this to OCF now to save time), Scott bears the burden of commanding missions and being responsible for everyone's participation, performance and safety. In XMFC, we get a youthful, doubtful and moody Scott who is afraid of his powers because shooting laser beams from your eyes is as dangerous as it gets and he always has to wear specialized shades to protect people around him. 

Nevertheless, Xavier sees him as someone who is born to lead mainly because he adheres to caution and values everyone's well-being because he worries in advance and sometimes to a fault. It's a sad development then to witness this golden boy turn rotten and now the infamous militant leader of the current comics run. It upsets me but it is inarguable the natural progression of his character arc which was a long time coming. 

But I digress. For this installment, we finally get a story where Scott is the sole central figure which was odd in itself because you'd think a single character can't carry an entire plot by himself but if there is anyone who can do it then I suppose it has to be Scott. The reason why everyone else is out of commission is because the four youngsters got some awful case of stomach flu and Scott was already sent in a solo mission by the professor so he did not get sick. 

The professor wanted to train him separate from everyone else because he was confident in Scott's abilities and as soon as they figured out together what Cyclops is up against, Xavier maintains that he wouldn't have chosen anyone else but him. It has always been apparent that Xavier is training Scott to one day take over when he's gone so sending him out on his own was only necessary. I'm also glad that he has an open communication with Xavier here the entire time.

In this mission, Scott learns that there are dangers to always having your guard up. The truth is, he needs to be less cautious and more sensitive to other needs and to stop treating himself like a walking hazard. It's just heartbreaking that when he did eventually get over this insecurity, he gains a less than optimistic perspective on his powers and leadership and became the harsher and inflexible semi-villain he is today in comics. So I was happy to be reminded of a young Scott, brimming with potentials. I really missed this version of him and I really want to keep reading this series just so I can hold onto this Scott Summers a little longer, if possible.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #9

Normally, I'd be up for some female trifecta action (even when it's not of the lesbian variety) but seeing these three beauties as the central characters for this issue did not get me as excited as I hoped I would be. Nonetheless, such useless first impressions were thankfully cast aside once I did get around to actually reading this.

As I've never gotten tired saying it before, I maintain that Jeff Parker's XMFC is of PG-13 variety. You think by now I would be sick of it but not at all. Comics are supposed to relax you. As much as I appreciate superhero stories that challenge me mentally and attempt to engage me beyond entertainment, I also do love it when what I see is what I get and this was another issue in the roster that proves just that. And this time it features Marvel Girl,  Scarlet Witch and Black Widow as the leads and they were more than equipped to captivate my interest. 

I can really appreciate the mere fact that this series as a whole attempts to establish personal relationships between the X-Men and the slowly reforming Maximoff twins who have officially cut all ties from Magneto (who remains a no-show here; the Cherik shipper in me is itching for his appearance so he and Charles can fall back into their old-couple habits). S.H.I.E.L.D has taken an interest in this and has tasked Natasha (Black Widow) to get close to the young women and gauge their states of mind, particularly Scarlet Witch.

Basically, Nick Fury wants to keep tabs on Wanda and Pietro Maximoff and whether or not they're still rotten eggs. I supppse they have to witnessed the answer for themselves in action. The three gorgeous ladies put Charlie's Angels to shame as they infiltrated a HYDRA arny base and showcased that each of them is a force to be reckoned with.

What really sold this issue for me is the sisterhood between Jean and Wanda, two fantastic heroines whom I've always wanted to see as friends and this series has fulfilled that wish. Both have formidable and earth-shattering powers which makes for an interesting platonic pairing now, considering that down the line both will lose control over their own sanity ans wreak havoc. It just amuses me to see their idyllic versions enjoying each other's youthful company, if not slightly disturbed and saddened by it.

RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Monday, June 15, 2015

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Volume 1

Not to be confused with the 2011 X-Men film adaptation that features the young, hot versions of Professor X and Magneto going all-out bittersweet bromance of the same name, Jeff Parker's kiddie-to-early-teen series is nothing nearly as gripping but is rather so insistently fucking adorbs with a heartfelt sincerity that matches its varied visual color and illustrations courtesy of artist Roger Cruz.

Though basically a re-vamp of the sixties version where the core five as mentioned before have the leading roles, the timeline for this comic book series seems to be placed in a more modern setting since Bobby mentions e-mail which means they have internet, which means this is not happening during the sixties.

I was also happy with the fact that the long-held characterizations for both these characters are intact for this AU series. Just like in the Stan Lee originals, young Scott is hopelessly self-doubting, always terrified that he might injure someone he cares about with his powers. He'd approach the professor about him not being worthy of the leadership role only to be comforted time and time again that he is made to lead. I love emo-Scott like you wouldn't believe so this was a nice touch to preserve the vulnerability of an aspiring hero back then who has now turned into comics' most formidable villains these days. 

Meanwhile, we have Jean Grey who is such a sweet thing that even the stuffy Xavier finds himself softening whenever he's around her, most likely because they're both telepaths which means there's an immediate intimacy and relation there. I sure hope they won't bring back the angle where the professor is secretly infatuated with his teenage student because goddammit, Stan Lee, that was creepy as all fuck. But at this point, being the only girl but with badass telekinesis at that, who can't help falling for Jeanie?

And then we have Henry McCoy who is your typical big-guy-with-a-soft-heart but also a nerdy motherfucker who is totes the teacher's pet during classroom discussions. It's because Henry doesn't really have anyone to bond with when it comes to science stuff aside from the professor so he eagerly chats away whenever Xavier is around to accommodate him. We have Warren who would rather fly out in the sky with his pretty wings than study world history. Xavier communicates telepathically with him when this happens, always finding the right words to say to humble the impulsive upper-class white boy himself.


Finally, we have Bobby Drake who is the youngest of the bunch and his zingers and overall laid-back attitude make me laugh. He definitely makes everything in the stories fun.

If you want something light, quirky and fun then you will enjoy this series as long as you're not the type of comic book reader who thinks superhero stories need to be gritty and mature all the time. Centered around the Original Core Five of Stan Lee's idyllic sixties era , X-Men: First Class is endearing and captivating enough for all ages to enjoy. If you have a child of your own or any niece or nephew who loves the superheroes particularly the X-Men and they're under 13 or so then this is the series I can recommend you buy for them. 

RECOMMENDED: 9/10

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #8

Remember when I asked in my review of the previous issue regarding how far this PG-13 series is planning to take foreshadowing Jean Grey's downwards spiral to Dark Phoenix entity? Well, my friends, this outstanding issue did not just foreshadow it: it prefectly depicted her as the malevolent DP. Intrigued? I certainly was.

Roger Cruz, the usual artist of the series, takes a break to allow Eric Nguyen to illustrate this issue. For its Marvel character guest star, we get Man-Thing which, if I remember correctly, is Marvel's answer to DC/Vertigo's popular Swamp Thing. Unlike with the latter, I don't know a damn thing about Man-Thing so I can only discuss his participation here in the plot which is pretty marvelous. What was so gripping about this issue, aside from Nguyen's visual presentations, is the substantial plot that calls back what we have previously witnessed in the earlier issues regarding Bobby Drake and Jean Grey.

From what I can understand, Man-Thing has the ability to travel through dimensions. Is this canon? Maybe. I don't have the energy to research more of this character but for the sake of this story let's just consider that ability of his as gospel-truth. While in a mission, the X-Men encounter Man-Thing and they were transported into different timelines of human history in one blink of existence at a time. There were warriors on winged horses, Nazis on ships, etc. For a time the five of them managed to fight theit way through,  that was until present and future started blending together and the team lost Bobby and Jean in the midst of the commotion. And if they don't find them before dimensions start closing up, they might lose them forever.

The real draw of this issue has to be the climactic revelations concerning the possible grim futures awaiting Jean and Bobby; worlds in which Jean becomes the Dark Phoenix as she slays everybody in her wake. Meanwhile, Bobby becomes a cruel Frost Giant and battles the Mighty Thor. The present young versions of these two somehow united with these grim future manifestations and the rest of the heroes have to find a way to pull them out while not freaking out as they watch their friends literally becomes nightmarish monsters. Fortunately enough, they were successful in saving both of them but Bobby and Jean also remembered what happened and are now going to carry those revelations from now on. It's up to them to decide if those futures will come true. After all, their choices will determine who they will become someday. They should have another follow-up to these character arcs later on because it's been enticing to read so far.

This is the darkest that Jeff Parker's series could get, I believe and it was a nice balance to all the fluff and goodness of the earlier issues and overall tonality. I certainly hope we'd start getting more mature issues like this one as we go on with the rest of the roster.

RECOMMENDED: 9/10

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #7

Now this was an epic resolution to a startling premise. I was very impressed, considering that the last two-parter story of this series, Island X, fell apart in its conclusion. Meanwhile, this one entitled The Catalyst, did not. Last issue, which only ran about eighteen pages, has showcased the deftness of the narrative by being able to deliver the plot on brisk simplicity which followed a rather stakes-high cliffhanger. 

NASA asked for the help of Charles Xavier to deter a comet from landing on earth. Using his telepathy, Professor X tried to assess if there is any living organism in the comet but was disappointed to find out that there is none...or is there not? The X-Men and their mentor woke up the very next day only to discover that they have each lost their respective unique powers. The only one happy about it was Scott and I would be too if it meant not always having to wear specialized shades indoors to avoid accidentally shooting off laser beams at my friends. 

To make matters crazier, a horde of Sentinels started attacking the Xavier Mansion because why the fuck not. Fortunately, because of the youngsters and their teacher getting timely depowered, the Sentinels did not kill them and instead accessed Cerebro's files which included the whereabouts of other mutants, particularly Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver's location. As the Sentinels hunt them down, the X-Men and the professor decided to still do something, mutant-powered or not, and got there just in time as the twins try to fight off the motherfucking hate-mongering robots.

Just as hope for survival looks dire, the X-Men and Professor X regained their powers which also happened to be multiplied tenfold. With such a breadth and depth of powers, they were not only able to defeat the Sentinels, they goddamned owned their asses. It was spectacular and a little bit terrifying. The heroes soon realized that some entity has enhanced their mutation, giving them absolute control and powers that they know might cost their humanity. They went back to the Mansion to discover a piece of the aforementioned comet has landed near their home,  undoubtedly honing in towards the professor's telepathy. After a brief discussion, each of them--though with noted sad resignation--agreed they should give up the overflowing magnitude of their powers so the professor once again communicated with the comet entity which recognized his imprint and therefore terminated whatever it was doing to their genes. 

Now, they could have had it all right there. Nobody would have to know. They can continue using the comet to channel their powers from and justify doing so for the good of mankind. But the youngsters showed emotional maturity by showing that they understand the hefty price they will pay for it and decided wisely not to risk it.

It's worth noting that as they send that piece of comet back to space, we see Jean Grey staring longingly after it. When Scott asked her about it, she merely dismissed that she's definitely going to miss being able to fly. As seen in the first issue of Vol. 2, Jean has been trying to use her telekenesis to fly herself from the ground...and promptly failing. Now she got the taste of real power and we all know what happens to her eventually, which was why there was some dread at the pit of my stomach as I watch her face with that hopeful expression. Jean looks as if she's open to a source of power far greater than ever before which builds up the upcoming events where she will posses the power of the Phoenix until it ultimately eats her up and transforms her into a dark entity.

This is still a PG-13 series so I wonder how far they will push through showcasing Jean Grey's dark potentials.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10

Thursday, June 11, 2015

X-Men: First Class by Jeff Parker Vol. 2 issue #6

Well, well, well.

Now THIS is how you build up another chaptered arc!

The previous issue was sort of a downer which was even more disappointing because I was pleased to see the Incredible Hulk make an appearance as one of the weekly Marvel guest star for XMFC series, but the story he was included in just wasn't substantial enough to captivate my interest. The entire thing was forgettable so let's move on from that and talk about this one.

With only eighteen pages, The Catalyst fairly did a quick and exciting job to establish the parameters and consequential stakes concerning the new clusterfuckery the X-Men and the professor are going to deal with, which actually hasn't been revealed yet. Still, I sure hope this arc would be much better than the last one with the monster island whose premise was a lot more enjoyable than its half-baked resolution.

For this issue, it started with a scene inside a space station where the professor volunteered his powers to detect a possible alien life form in a comet that's about to strike a surface of the Earth. Xavier manages to detain its direction to avoid contact with our world but was sad to inform everyone else that he didn't get to communicate with any existing life form at the comet's core.

The next day, everyone woke up without their mutant powers. Henry has normal hands and feet, Bobby can't ice up, Jean has no telekenis, Professor X has no telepathy while Warren's wings started shedding, which was quite a heartbreaking scene in itself. Scott was the only one who was happy to get rid of his pesky laser beams which was kind of insensitive to his friends, honestly.

However, he did prove himself surprisingly useful when a horde of goddamn Sentinels attacked the mansion right when everyone is stupefied and powerless. Even without his powers, Scott's training snapped into action and he lured one Sentinel inside the Danger Room using only his quick reflexes. I concur with Bobby; Scott was such a badass and he didn't even need to go all-Cyclops. It only goes to show that he's a natural, dependable leader, mutant-powered or not.

What was curious was that rather timely Sentinel attack--and the even more confounding fact that they attacked the kids in the first place when they're supposed to be programmed to detect mutants and I assume that if the X-Men are de-powered then that means that the Sentinels won't register them as threats. That could mean that the X-gene might still be present in them and is suppressed--or somebody knows shit like this is gonna go down and has re-programmed the Sentinels.

Does this have anything to do with the comet earlier? I don't know. AND I CAN'T WAIT TO FIND OUT. I'm really excited to see where this story leads and how and why did they lose their mutations all of a sudden.


RECOMMENDED: 8/10