Chuck Austen’s X-Men: Heroes and Villains

Writer’s Note: Here it is – the long awaited finale to Chuck Austen’s X-Men.  I wanted to get it posted immediately, so as the day (or week) goes on, I’ll get the images posted.  Right now, the place holders I use when writing will stay until done.  I’ll post a new entry when the completed thing is done.

Heroes and Villains

We sure have been through a lot, haven’t we? We started way back in Hope with a fight against a talking tree who got an orgasm (Stacy X, we miss you so) and have been through werewolves, evil churches, bionic rednecks, and even the Draco. But here is where it all ends. Heroes and Villains is the swan song of Chuck Austen’s far too long run with the X-Men, and then he pretty much falls out of the entire mainstream comic scene.

Our story begins in Philadelphia where a tour group seeing Independence Hall is attacked by a brand new lineup of Brotherhood of Mutants. Led by Exodus, the lineup is made up of Avalanche, Black Tom Cassidy, Sabretooth, Nocturne and new character Mammomax. It is one of the most logic-defying team rosters I think I’ve ever seen. There is simply no reason for this crew to be together if one thinks about their characterizations. To illustrate this point, let’s think about some of the previous Brotherhood line-ups.

The original, led by Magneto, was governed by the thought that mutants would be the leaders of the world through violence and force to teach the ordinary humans their place in the evolutionary ladder. Mastermind and Toad wanted to be a part of the eventual leaders of the world, while Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were conflicted between owing their lives to Magneto, while not believing in his actions. The lineup made sense, and the later replacements like Blob and Unus to make up for the departure of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch leaned on their desire for power.

The second Brotherhood, brought together by Mystique, was a more level-headed basis of doing whatever they wanted to get what they wanted. Mystique and Destiny might have had loftier goals, but the likes of Blob, Pyro and Avalanche were just there because they were thugs willing to get their hands dirty to get what they wanted. When the whole organization landed in jail, they made a deal with the government liking the thought of being pardoned for doing practically the same thing. This mindset stuck with the Toad-led Brotherhood of the early 90’s.

But let’s look at this one. Exodus is the self-appointed heir to the ways of Magneto. He’s all about mutantkind and doing whatever it takes to ensure that mutants begin the dominant species of the planet, which he showed through his past (and future) leadership of the Acolytes. There is no way whatsoever that he would align himself with Sabretooth who slaughtered countless mutants for profit and enjoyment as one of Sinister’s Marauders. Black Tom Cassidy has always been about profit to himself, and was never much of a team-player outside of his friendship with Juggernaut. Nocturne is not a villain at all – she was a member of the Exiles, and though she apparently has a reason for being there, it doesn’t at all work. Avalanche and Mammomax fill out the ranks. Unlike any of the previous Brotherhoods, this group has little goal beyond “destroy the X-Men”. Oh, and attack tourists.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah! Wouldn’t you know it, a group of those tourists just happen to be Havok’s team of X-Men with awesome disguises.

IMAGE: AWESOME DISGUISES

Why they waited for the Brotherhood to attack innocents isn’t important. I guess Polaris’s “magnet detection” was off right there. Anyway, the fight breaks and we learn two big things. One, Rogue has her absorption powers back and can even manage to siphon off a little power without leaving the source a) powerless and b) unconscious. This was something I complained about when the issue first came out, but being that it became an established point of her powers in later years, good for Austen for trend setting. The other big thing is the epic debut of Mammomax, who is not only a giant talking elephant, but also spews acid and has impervious skin that apparently can’t be frozen. I wonder which one of those is the secondary mutation.

As Black Tom attacks some civilians, Nocturne immediately shows her true colors (blue, bwah ha) by teleporting them to safety. But apparently no one notices or Tom doesn’t bother telling them. Finally, Havok ends the fight with a big blast (he does that) and the Brotherhood gets away. Oh, and Philadelphia gets a lot of damage, but let’s be real. It’s Philadelphia – they boo Santa Claus.

The X-Men return home to find Sammy the Fishboy looking for Juggernaut, who has disappeared. Iceman is pissed that Juggernaut is missing, because he could have been useful and his parole agreement says he can’t just wander off. But since Iceman can’t serve as the voice of logic since he’s Iceman, Havok just ignores him as he storms off ready to call the authorities. He doesn’t. Just then little Carter shows up to greet Alex, and they all go into the hip and cool Infirmary where Nurse Annie is treating Gambit, who you recall blew out his own eyes with his own exploding card. Apparently no one thought to go get Elixir, the school’s Omega-level healer who has healed holes impaled through stomachs, let alone burned eyes.

Gambit is not taking his condition well and takes out his anger on Rogue, whom he blames for his condition. It’s not really fair – in the middle of a fight Rogue tackled two villains, one of whose gun went off clipping Gambit’s charged card – but then again, it was Rogue who conspired with Sage to restore his powers to begin with, as well as Rogue who got him into the position where he lost his powers to begin with, so I suppose it’s not that bad of reasoning. Rogue has been pretty much the worst thing for Gambit in his entire history. But here, he comes off as an asshole so she storms out much to his surprise.

Havok gives Nurse Annie the battle sum-up, but she incorrectly guesses that his team performed with a level of competence and actually captured the Brotherhood. When Havok’s expression tells her otherwise, she becomes a voice of reason and says that it’s ridiculous that people keep getting hurt and her son’s life is continuously in danger. Apparently, in all the time Nurse Annie has been with us (and it feels like FOREVER) she has not realized that she took the job as medical specialist for one of the least-liked super teams in the Marvel Universe. Fighting villains is what they do. And not only that, she was in the school when the Xorn/Magneto ravaged it. If there was a time to begin thinking perhaps the Xavier Institute isn’t the best neighborhood for your kid, that was it. But finally, Havok recommends she go somewhere safe as they prepare for a Brotherhood attack. Because having the world’s foremost mutant tracking system is too much effort to find them. Or Exodus telepathically shields whatever.

Out on the grounds, Sammy the Fishboy is looking for Juggernaut when his mother comes up and says that she wants to start dating Juggs. It’s not explained why Sammy’s mom is now at the mansion – she’s not a mutant and it’s not like any other parents are living with their kids – nor is it explained why she thinks that dating the former super-villain with anger issues and a penchant to throw his problems through walls is a good idea. After her last guy, I guess it’s her type. Sammy requests that she not do that as it will simply cause him embarassment and he walks away. His mom is never seen again. Good spending of two pages there.

In Polaris’s room, she gets a knock on the door and invites Annie in by name, knowing it’s her because she “sensed (her) magnetic field through the door”. Magnets, am I right? Anyway, Annie has decided that she’s leaving the school for good and instead of telling the soul-mate who she fought for and emotionally wrecked two people to get, she tells the woman whose wedding she wrecked and longtime squeeze she stole. Annie realizes that Havok will always choose the X-Men over her (that’s what you get for dating a Summers) and asks Lorna to take care of him for her. She’s lucky she didn’t do this around “The Draco” or Lorna probably would have ripped her in twain. She has magnet powers – she can do that. Anyway, she’s gotten better with the crazy thing so instead she says goodbye.

Out at some campfire, Sabretooth is arguing with Exodus that their brilliant “yell their arrival and kill humans” plan was botched and believes that Nocturne had to have been the leak since she was the only one no one knew. Exodus dismisses it (how could someone from another dimension be bad?) but realizes that they must remove the potential threat of the X-Men and goes with Black Tom’s plan to attack the X-Mansion. You know, instead of doing something like making a decoy attack and drawing them away from the heavily fortified base that has three teams of X-Men and a handful of reserves around at all times. But Tom reveals that he’s had a plan in motion for this strike for quite some time and just like that JUGGERNAUT shows up with a smile on his face. And you thought he was reformed. Nah nah.

Back at the school, Emma Frost and Havok begin dealing with the new Xorn they brought back last story. Emma has made telepathic contact with him, despite his black hole head, and found that he’s not the original Xorn but rather his twin brother. And here’s where the whole Xorn thing gets into the “unsalvageable” territory.

As originally told, Xorn was a mutant the X-Men found locked away who had healing powers and a star for a brain, forcing him to wear a skull-like metal helmet. After becoming a member of the team and instructor of special-needs class, Xorn sabotages the X-Men – putting the main players out of action – and reveals himself to be Magneto. The Xorn guise was nothing more than a fabrication with the star brain being an excuse to never remove his helmet and the healing abilities simply being a smoke and mirror cover brought with his magnetism powers. After a savage attack on New York and a battle that left numerous people dead, the Xorneto ended up losing his head to Wolverine’s claws after killing Jean Grey.

Follow that? The problem came in the first month of the ReLoad event when Chris Claremont revealed in the first issue of Excalibur that Magneto was alive and well and not the one who had invaded the X-Men and died for it. It was a pretty big deal with fans at the time as it undermined the entire point of Grant Morrison’s story, but it’s not like the story was lost or anything. You had the exact same thing, just with the watered down reveal that not Magneto, but an imposter using Magneto’s likeness for the ambiance that went with it. The Xorn identity? Still a fabrication. Why not?

But then you have the editorial-mandated new Xorn here. And really, it should have been a simple matter. The Magneto imposter had learned of this Chinese prisoner and realized that the identity would work well to establish his cover, and should the X-Men look into the matter they could find information on a helmeted prisoner named Xorn. So when you have new Xorn show up, you simply say that this is the mutant whose identity Magneto stole for his cover. So whomever the Magneto imposter was (and the less said about THAT reveal the better), he stole not one, but TWO identities. And there you go.

But that’s not what Chuck Austen. Instead, he treated the Xorn/Magneto imposter as an actual Xorn, stating that he had both the star-brain and the healing powers, and this new Xorn was actually that Xorn’s twin brother. So that would mean that the Magneto imposter was Xorn, pretending to be Magneto, pretending to be Xorn. And that doesn’t at all work with Morrison’s story and therefore we all say Chuck Austen is dumb. But we’ve been saying that for quite some time. What’s more bothersome about it is that when this Xorn is established, Austen was on his way out. The new Xorn creation is botched terribly and makes what was a straightforward story ridiculously complex. And that’s the X-Office editiorial force in action for you. It’s why this period of X-Men is not known for any kind of quality, save for the 25 issues of Joss Whedon’s that took four and a half years to come out.

Back to the story, Havok apologizes for locking Xorn up but they can’t be too careful with what Magneto did having “appropriated” Kuan-Yin Xorn’s body for his attack on New York. Seriously, that’s what they say. Xorn drops the bomb (no pun intended) that it was not Magneto whom attacked New York, but “someone else” who apparently is still hanging out with the X-Men planning their destruction. No name or further information is given, and to my knowledge this is the last time the matter ever comes up anywhere.

IMAGE: IT WAS NOT MAGNETO

Back at the campfire, Black Tom reveals that waaaaaaaay back in Hope, he and Juggernaut had an agreement that should his plan (of being a tree in Cassidy Keep, if you recall) went badly then Juggernaut would use Professor X’s compassion as a way to get himself accepted into the X-Mansion. And it actually worked like a charm. So in his time with the X-Men, Juggernaut was finally given access to the one unguarded passage to the inner-workings of the mansion. I hate to say it, but remember when Iceman was being an ass about Juggernaut using the Danger Room and learning about the school? Turns out he was right.

Facing the eradication of the X-Men, Nocturne begins sneaking off when Juggernaut reveals her identity as a former member of the Exiles and attacks her, saying something in the process. Of course, one might wonder why a telepath on the level of Exodus didn’t immediately pick up on Nocturne’s identity and past, but it’s not like any villain in the story here is acting with any kind of proper characterization. As they celebrate Nocturne’s apparent demise, Sammy the Fishboy shows up and calls Juggernaut a pig. Not the best of insults there, kid. This campfire that the major villains are having? Turns out it’s on the grounds of the X-Mansion, which doesn’t really make sense being that they just decided to attack the school during the conversation. So why in the world would they put themselves at risk of detection? Why do I still ask these questions?

In the school, Jay Guthrie (remember him?) tries to tell Havok where Sammy’s gone while Iceman comes yelling that Juggernaut has apparently abandoned the school and that he most likely will turn on them soon, especially since they let him know everything about the school. Havok again tries to blow off Iceman’s concerns, but suddenly realizes that Sammy is on the grounds looking for Juggernaut, which means, of course, that he’s in terrible danger. How bad of danger, you ask? After Black Tom makes fun of the bonding time had between the two former besties in Sammy and Juggernaut, he decides it’s time to be a horrific villain and savagely kills the young Fishboy.

IMAGE: DEATH OF SAMMY

Juggernaut loses his shit over the matter and tries to get to his little buddy, only to hear Sammy’s final words which aren’t exactly kind to his former friend. Juggernaut attacks Black Tom and has a moment to scream to the sky in proper cheesy death-scene form.

Realizing that a Brotherhood attack is immenent, Havok does not summon all the X-Men, but rather his squad (now down to five) as well as Xorn who was just locked up about five pages ago. Xorn realizes that someone has died, being able to feel “the spirit cross over” but says it is beyond his healing abilities to bring him back. You know, the healing abilities that they said he didn’t have a few pages ago. Havok and Iceman race to the scene (even though he just sent Polaris and Wolverine there) and the two continue to bicker about Juggernaut’s apparent betrayal.

Let’s stop here for a second before the battle begins. A problem with this story is that we never are told exactly what Juggernaut’s true plan was. It’s kind of stated, I suppose, and ALMOST said once or twice, but never who knew what. Apparently, the plan as stated back in Hope was the original idea. Juggernaut get in cozy with the X-Men and eventually set up a strike from the inside. What he didn’t expect was the kindness and support he received from Xavier as well as a handful of X-Men, as well as the idolization from Sammy whose friendship he actually treasured. So around the point where he fought Alpha Flight on the school grounds, he began rethinking his role and accepting his position with the X-Men. That gave him a new problem – what to do when Black Tom came calling for their strike?

One would then assume that he came clean with Xavier or Cyclops or whoever and revealed what Black Tom was up to. When Havok became team leader and Juggernaut was assigned to his squad, he was let in on what was going to happen, which is why his squad was there to stop the Brotherhood attack. Juggernaut was not present in Philadelphia to help his cover, with the thought that he would warn them when the attack was to take place. That unguarded door would likely be very guarded when the Brotherhood attacked. Sammy’s presence changed all that and here we are.

Now the question is why didn’t all the X-Men know? Most of Iceman’s role in these past two issues was yammering on and on about how Juggernaut was really a villain and would betray them. If Cyclops expected the squad to work together in life or death situations, why not just have Juggernaut completely clear the air on the matter? Havok seemed to know, after all. The answer of course is storytelling. The entire point of this story is to have the reader questioning what Juggernaut is going to do. He became the bright point of Austen’s run (which isn’t saying much) so when he seemed to betray the X-Men, it hit a little. But once it was revealed that he wasn’t whole-heartedly against them in Sammy’s death scene, why not throw the readers a bone?

Anyway, back to the fight. Team Havok hits the field and gets slaughtered. Havok accidentally blasts Juggernaut, Sabretooth guts Xorn, Exodus buries Havok in the ground, Avalanche shatters Iceman (in the most overdone Iceman trope EVER) and then buries the rest of them in the ground. Wolverine and Polaris apparently did not find the need to come back and fight the villains while looking for Sammy (whose body was right next to the fight, remember) and sat off-panel. Rogue appeared in the initial page but didn’t do anything whatsoever. Having lucked into a victory, Exodus reveals his new plan: go attack the school and kill X-Men. Not exactly a high-level tactician.

Out at the front gate, Nurse Annie is driving away while Carter decides that he’s going to say goodbye to the only thing he’s ever had as a father figure (Havok, duh) with his well-defined “mind powers”. Annie begs him not to because she doesn’t want to see the man whose heart she’s about to crush into tiny pieces. It’s better for her that she just abandon him and call it a day. She’s a real catch. Unfortunately, she didn’t remember that her gay bestie Northstar was still around and he pops up to say goodbye. As they have their talk, Carter reveals that Sammy is dead and the Brotherhood is coming to kill everyone else. Mind powers.

Speaking of people Annie didn’t bother to tell that she was leaving, Blind Gambit has been left alone in her now abandoned infirmary, though now he’s wearing his full costume for some reason. He calls out to her to ask if his card is glowing (giggity) and when her abandonment doesn’t provide an answer, he pulls his bandage up and finds a vision of the Brotherhood’s attack in his glowing card. Precognitive Blind Gambit (PBG) is surprised by this new ability, though even though he saw it, he’s apparently still blind. Or something. Who cares? PBG begins wandering around the school looking for anyone to tell (nevermind that they have telepaths and comm systems) and finds Mindee Cuckoo playing the piano.

Rather than asking Mindee to use her telepathy to warn ANYONE about the vision, PBG asks her to look out the window and wouldn’t you know it, Sabretooth picks that very window to toss a generic attack victim through. PBG tries to attack, but almost hits Mindee until she decides to become his telepathic eyes, allowing him to toss a card into Sabretooth’s open mouth which explodes in a loud burp. And then Mindee punches him out. No seriously – Mindee Cuckoo punches out Sabretooth.

IMAGE: SMAK!

I’m a longtime X-Men fan and that sequence bothers me a LOT. During the Mutant Massacre, Sabretooth attacked the X-Mansion and had a battle with the still-British Psylocke until Wolverine could arrive and finish the battle. A decade later, Sabretooth was broken out of captivity by X-Force’s Boom Boom and Psylocke, now in ninja form, stepped up to put him down and got gutted for her efforts. Sabretooth is not the villain that hilariously swallows the exploding card and gets punched by the blonde teenager. He’s the villain that leaves a piece of Mindee for each of her sisters as a keepsake. Instead, PBG blows him back out the window.

Avalanche shows up to cover his ally but Sabretooth suddenly vanishes, distracting the villain and allowing Mindee Cuckoo to bring him down with her 1/3 telepathic powers. Two pages, two villains down to the little blonde student acting alone without her sisters for the first (and to my recollection only) time without the aide of her sisters. I can’t decide if that makes her badass or Havok’s team amazingly inept for being defeated by Avalanche last issue.

IMAGE: AAAAAHHH!!!

Sabretooth’s vanishing act had come due to an attack by Northstar who manages to put down the high-level villain who gives Wolverine the fight of his life every time by running him through a bunch of trees which puts him down. Northstar had been angered by Sabretooth name-dropping his sister Aurora who had been missing at this point due to her time in the Weapon X book. He also called Northstar a girl, because he’s gay. Did you remember that Northstar’s gay? Here’s this story’s reminder – collect the whole set!

Away from the mansion-shattering battle going on, Wolverine and Polaris finally come upon Sammy’s body and begin questioning who could have killed him in such a gruesome way. Wolverine suspects Juggernaut, even though the kid’s body is still sitting in the branches that tore it apart. At this point, Nocturne pops out of the bushes to reveal that Juggernaut was actually trying to save everyone by pretending to kill Nocturne and telling her to go get help. Of course, Nocturne’s efforts at going to get help comprised of hiding in a bush nearby and waiting for someone to come around. But that’s not the limit of her ineptitude since she reveals that she wasn’t actually a double agent in the Brotherhood, but instead just joined along in their evil ways because she’s stupid.

At the first battle site, Juggernaut and Iceman converse over Juggernaut’s true motives while trying to dig out Havok from the hole that Avalanche buried him in. Of course, with an entire page of little-to-no-art you’d think this would be the perfect place for Juggs to exposition-dump his true motives and plans on this whole thing. Instead, we get Iceman asking and Juggernaut blowing him off saying that he owes him no answers. It’s incredible that Iceman doesn’t trust the guy, right?

Back at the mansion, PBG and Mindee Cuckoo are running from attacks by Black Tom and Exodus with Mindee saying that she’s reached her limit of villains to defeat (and outperform the X-Men themselves) because of these two’s mental blocks (Exodus is a high level telepath and Tom is a tree). As PBG continues whimpering about what’s going on, Exodus appears above them…and we shift scenes over to Rogue who has gone from the only member of the team not fighting to the only member of the team doing anything. She fights Black Tom using Wolverine’s claws (no explanation why they’re metal) but loses soundly (she’s not Mindee after all) and he begins giving her the Sammy treatment.

Back at the hole, Havok and Juggernaut find and recover Xorn just as Northstar shows up to announce that the school’s under attack which for some reason surprises Iceman.

IMAGE: UNDER ATTACK?!

I guess that even though he met the Brotherhood and rather embarrassingly got shattered by Avalanche (he’s not Mindee after all) he didn’t think that the next step for the Brotherhood would be to attack the mansion that’s right next to them. Northstar and Iceman bicker a bit as Polaris and Wolverine arrive to announce Sammy’s death and then we get the penultimate issue final page splash team image. Because you know since the school is being defended by a teenage girl, a blind man and a mostly powerless lady, it’s probably a good idea for the rest of them get off their butts and get a movin’. Maybe they just assume that the rest of the X-Men of this period (in no particular order that includes Cyclops, Emma Frost, Beast, Kitty Pryde, Storm, Bishop, Cannonball, Marvel Girl, Sage and Nightcrawler) or a school full of eager students now training in combat squads would do their part. But nope – just Mindee Cuckoo, Precognitive Blind Gambit and Rogue. No wonder the school gets blown up almost monthly.

Unfortunately for the Brotherhood, now that they’ve succeeded in almost every step they’ve taken thus far and have the remaining three defenders right where they want them, they decide now is the time in which they completely fall apart into self-conflict and bickering. Mammomax makes his first appearance in the fight by waking up Avalanche by calling him a ‘panty-waist mook’ for getting taken out by a GIRL. Remember that girls in the Austen era are good for being love-crazy and wanting sex. The thought that one can actually fight? LUDICROUS.

Exodus is having some trouble killing Mindee and PBG because even though just a minute ago she was unable to make any kind of telepathic impact on him, now she is able to project false images into his mind to have him miss his attacks on them. Mindee Cuckoo can do that to Exodus. She’s nearly as awesome as Nurse Annie, isn’t she? Is she your favorite yet? Just as Exodus is about to hone in on the two, the other Austen side character, Jay Guthrie, shows up to save them both. Apparently he’s the only other person in the school aware of the battle taking place on the grounds, but luckily for them now that she’s in the air, Mindee believes that now she can latch onto Black Tom’s mind.

So remember, people. If you need to mind-whammy a tree, make sure you get some altitude first. You learned it here!

As for Black Tom himself, even though last issue he had begun pulling Rogue apart like he did Sammy, this issue he has apparently decided against killing her and simply holds her in a tree cocoon and taunts her. Because the Brotherhood has suddenly become inept in their thinking and reverted to “monologuing villains”. Even though Rogue had Wolverine’s claws, she apparently can’t use them and her powers aren’t working because “his mind is elsewhere”. Whatever. Lucky for our southern belle, the school’s four-armed cook (who has only made one previous appearance back during the Draco) decides to attack with a frying pan (just one – not one for each hand) and gets slaughtered by Black Tom for her efforts. Rogue? Kept alive in a cocoon. Non-combatant mutant chef? Must be killed. Priorities.

The charging X-Men stop their forward march at finding Sabretooth recovering from the tree Northstar slammed him into and take a moment to taunt him about how much he sucks.

IMAGE: WHen have you ever been a threat?

Wolverine decides that now is the time that the two of them settle their score “once and for all” and then have an apparently epic battle for the rest of the issue. I say apparently because even though it’s one of the Marvel U’s biggest rivalries and even made the cover of the issue, the battle takes place completely off-panel. It’s like the final part of King Kong vs. Godzilla where they fall into the water and only one emerges (no spoilers here!), except just pretend the battle through the rest of the movie happened while all of the dubbed people are conversing about other, less important things.

Mammomax is still trying to wake up Avalanche and is now freaking out because even though they’ve been winning this entire time, apparently now he believes that the Brotherhood has gotten their butts kicked. I guess Jay pulling out the other two and high-tailing it is a staggering loss for him. As Avalanche takes offense to Mammomax pointing out that he’s been KO’d like five times in the battle, he quickly gets knocked out again by a rushing Northstar who then apparently doesn’t stick around to continue fighting. Exodus pops up and says that they have to regroup since they came into the battle with very little plan beyond “Kill the X-Men” and even though it’s been working beautifully thus far, now it’s time to panic. They begin to bicker when FINALLY the X-Men show up and the fight scene begins.

Well, sort of. It’s more like two pages of Juggernaut swinging Mammomax around by his nose and then four pages of Northstar telling the life story of the four-armed cook who was just killed by Black Tom. Because really, when you’re having a BIG FINALE fight between the X-Men and the Brotherhood, the important thing is to spend a fifth of the book telling the history of a character who appeared twice.

IMAGE: Marilyn’s story

Black Tom ignores Northstar’s heartfelt story, instead preferring to attack the entire rest of the team all at the same time while still destroying parts of the school. Why he even bothered with the team-up is beyond me since he’s had no problems whatsoever destroying everyone by himself. Polaris asks Havok for a plan, which he gives her as “just keep fighting” which makes him quite the strategic mind. A Summers indeed. As their last hope, Mindee Cuckoo (of course), reveals that she cannot control Black Tom, Nocturne finally pops in to do something for the first time in this entire story by using her possession powers to try to stop him.

With time running out, literally since Austen used four pages for the cook, Xorn steps up and decides that he’s going to open his black hole head to solve the problems. Nocturne decides to go because it’s too dangerous to let go of Black Tom, and Juggernaut decides to go because he feels so bad about Sammy’s death and wants to protect Nocturne. Of course they do bring up the matter of should the Brotherhood make it back from wherever Xorn’s head goes, they will just attack the school again, but luckily the super-awesome Mindee Cuckoo is there to wipe everyone’s mind before that happens. You know, including EXODUS.

IMAGE: Mind-wipe!

So even though a huge part of the last story was that Xorn couldn’t control his black hole head, now he’s got it down and pulls in the entire Brotherhood while completely avoiding the X-Men, including Rogue who was still tied up in a cocoon. At least I think Rogue got out – she doesn’t show up in the team regroup, but she’s around next issue. So with Xorn having put his helmet back on, he decides to just walk away even though the X-Men originally found it too dangerous to let him out of a cell, and everyone’s just cool with that. Northstar also breaks it to Havok that Annie has taken off and he apparently is cool with that too.

IMAGE: WRAP-UP

So just like that, all outstanding plots are tied up nicely and Chuck Austen puts his toys away as he leaves the title. The incomparable Paul O’Brien summed up the finale of this battle perfectly when he initially reviewed the issue for his site the X-Axis.

“Yes, that’s right – the Chuck Austen run ends by collapsing in on itself thanks to the sheer incredible degree of sucking. Really. It’s such a gift to critics that I can only imagine it was included as a bet to see if anyone would take the bait. Well, whatever. It might be obvious, but it’s true.”

With little else to do, the team goes to find Wolverine who’s finished his epic battle while you weren’t looking. And even though Sabretooth was easily taken down by both Mindee Cuckoo and Northstar, Wolverine apparently had the fight of his life and is surprised that he made it out alive. Man, I bet you wish you could have seen it. But you got to learn about Marilyn the cook, so really who came off luckier?

IMAGE: He’s ALIVE!

So as the X-Men celebrate a battle won by luck skill, we get one more page of epilogue in which Annie runs away from her problems and true love. She asks Carter how he’s doing and he reveals that he’s got an imaginary friend who’s a she, and she’s not imaginary he says with an evil gril.

IMAGE: EVIL CARTER

And leave it to Chuck Austen to leave his run on X-Men with a cliffhanger since he will not be able to follow up on it ever. I suppose he thought that it would be so enticing for the next writer that they would do something with it. But his successor Peter Milligan didn’t take the bait. Nor did any other writer of the X-Books since. It’s one of those things that no one cares about yet still was never touched upon. We’ll just say that Carter lost his mind powers on M-Day and call it a day.

And that’s it for Chuck Austen’s X-Men! It’s been a long, rather awful journey.

Spider-Man, the MCU and movie-paced storytelling

Wow, it’s been quiet around here hasn’t it?  For me, I blame the United States Postal Service.  Not to say I’m “mailing it in” (har har).  Anyway, just because J.R. and I haven’t been keeping up with the blog (sorry!) doesn’t mean we’re not keeping up with comicdom and pop culture chunks.  Well, I’m a little behind because of work, but I’m doing my best to catch up for work here as well as on a vocal-based project coming soon from me and a comic shop owner.  Stay tuned.

But because I’m known by many of my friends as a comic book nerd (and rightfully so) whenever something happens that makes buzz, someone will likely come to me and ask my opinion on it.  Lately, it’s been the announcement that Sony and Marvel are bringing Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Um, woo hoo?

But don’t get my lack of excitement bug you.  I’m not a movie watcher, per se, as in I don’t really watch movies.  While I am up on my X-Men movies which isn’t a big surprise, as for the MCU I’m really behind.  I’ve seen the first two Iron Man movies, the second Captain America movie and the Avengers.  Now before you jump down my throat screaming HOW COULD YOU CALL YOURSELF A FAN AND NOT SEE THEM ALL?!!! let me roll my eyes and say that if a movie’s theme doesn’t interest me, I’m not going to go out of my way to give time and money to it.  So when you toss out a solo movie for Thor or Hulk (or Superman for that matter, if you’re a DC fan) I’m not going to get excited because the characters don’t appeal that much to me.  If it’s important enough to someone I like and value the opinion of, I can be swayed.  For instance, my friend Andrew finally sat me down and made me watch Winter Soldier, and I give him props for doing so.

But enough about me, let’s talk Spider-Man in the MCU.

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Amusing Ad Placement

The following is taken from Justice League United #7.  Yes, I know it came out a while ago.  Yes, I’m really, really behind in my reading.  Anyways, a little background.  Ultra is a kid alien that was created by combining the DNA of several alien races, hoping to create a supreme being, or something.  It’s the first story arc, read it.  Anyways, the villain Byth has taken Ultra, and use him to rule the universe.  The Legion has come back in time to kill Byth because of what happens in the future.  The JLU likes Ultra, and wants to save him.  Green Arrow brings up the possibility that they should at least discuss what they’re going to do if they can’t save Ultra.

JLU 8 Stargirl

Of course, no one on the team raises their hand.  However, the first thing I saw after reading this panel was this ad on the next page.

JLU 8 NBA ad

That’s right, Carmelo Anthony is in favoring of killing bio-engineered, alien kids who may or may not destroy the universe.

Transformers the Movie Part 2: The Sacking of Autobot City

When we last left our film, Optimus Prime had sent four out-of-print Autobots on a fuel run and they got massacred by Decepticons.  It was pretty depressing for everyone.

If you’re just joining us, the G1 cartoon has jumped forward two decades and the Decepticons are now in control of Cybertron with the Autobots formulating an invasion on two “secret” bases on the planet’s moons.  Secret gets quotation marks because the Decepticons are completely aware of their existence, yet for some reason don’t wipe them out, even though they have managed to conquer the planet.  The Autobots, however, have expanded their Earth operation from one ship wedged into a volcano into an entire Autobot City, which is what we’ll be dealing with in this chapter.

We open just outside of the city with two brand new characters – young upstart Autobot Hot Rod and his little human buddy Daniel, who is the son of Spike and his lady love Carly, whom true fans of G1 will know.  However, she – along with Spike’s father Spark Plug and the wheelchair bound Chip no longer will be appearing.  Try to get over your anguish.

Hot Rod and Daniel are spending the day fishing, though Daniel is all bummed out because he’s missing his father who as you will recall is stationed up on Moon Base 2.  Hot Rod assures Daniel that Spike will be back soon, even though Spike said earlier that he wouldn’t be home until Megatron’s tail was kicked across the galaxy.  Unfortunately, that message didn’t get to Daniel, since it’s messenger sort of got his head blown off.  No mouth, no message.

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A critical look at Transformers: The Movie: Part One

I consider myself a decent fan of Generation 1 era Transformers, but truthfully it wasn’t until the mid 90’s that I started watching the series (in the form of the so-called “Generation 2″ updated repeats).  Most kids born in the 80’s that claim to have watched Transformers as kids are fibbing a little.  I was born in 1982, but Transformers was more of my brother’s thing as I was too young to remember it.  My series were more Real Ghostbusters and TMNT.

But there was one bit of the early Transformers that was cemented in memory due to a well-used VHS copy of Transformers: The Movie, complete with the bad ass image of the brand new Autobots shooting their guns into the sky, though for whatever reason, the main character of the movie is stuck in a tiny image in the back right corner, which is something of a spoiler if you haven’t seen the movie.

Anyway, once the show was gone from the cartoon rotation that lone VHS tape was the only Transformers left in the Dunman household, save for my brother’s toys that I demolished many of.  Don’t give me that look – he got me back by torching nearly all of my GI Joes (including Crazy Legs!).  My point is that not often did much time go by before the epic tunes of Stan Bush filled our living room as we once again saw the Autobots light their darkest hour.  My mom, heavens bless her, hated the movie with a passion, mainly because she found the musical score to be unbearable.  Later, once my adult years crept up and I became familiar with the source, I realized the other reason she despised our insistence on repeated viewings.

It’s not good.  At all.  And that’s the thing I’ve come to realize.  Granted,  the movie still holds a spot in my heart, but I find it difficult to believe that any G1 fan can actually enjoy it.

Like many children’s cartoons, Transformers existed as a 22 minute commercial for the toy line, and there were a lot of Transformers to sell.  Keep in mind that original lineup of Autobots featured 18 characters.  That’s Legion of Super-Heroes big right there, and it got steadily bigger as the show went on.  By the second season, the originals had been joined by so many new Autobots that the lineup had more than doubled.  And there was never any reason for new characters to show up – they were just there.  New toys had appeared, so the show had to feature them, right?

The movie was a huge event for both fans and those profiting alike.  For the fans, they got a full-length feature film on the big screen.  For Hasbro, they not only had a grand stage to roll-out another line of toys, but to also get rid of those who weren’t sold anymore.  And so, out with the old and in with the new.  A new status quo was established, and a new cast of heroes and villains were brought in to fill it.  And quality or fan opinion be damned.

I’ve spent nearly three decades becoming more familiar with this movie than anyone not interested in attending a Bot Con should, but there it is.  It’s hard to sum up my thoughts and opinions on this movie, so I’m going to do it in the best way I can – pick it apart in a plot synopsis and make snarky comments.  If site traffic is any indication, I’m pretty good at doing that.

So here we are – an in-depth look at Transformers: The Movie.  Get comfortable – it’s going to be a long one.  I suppose I should throw out a SPOILER alert for anyone who would be angered at reading an in-depth look at a 30 year old movie and being shocked that I gave away the name of who died.  It’s everyone.

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Weekly Viewings

Yeah, it’s been a few weeks since I have done a Weekly Viewings.  Just haven’t watched a lot of TV recently.  But like I promised in the first entry, I’ll update with whatever I have watched each week.  Here’s what I watched this week.

Gotham “Arkham,” in which the Maroni and Falcone families compete for the rights to Arkham.
The Flash “Fastest Man Alive,” where Barry has to battle his doubts, and a guy who can clone himself.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Face My Enemy,” in which Coulson and May infiltrate a party to steal a painting.
Arrow “Sara,” where the team tries to deal with the events of the previous episode and track down an arrow shooting assassin.
Gotham “Viper,” in which a new drug is killing everyone that takes it.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “A Hen in the Wolf House,” in which Simmons’ double agent status is put into peril.
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Gotham Academy #1

Gotham Acadamy 1A while back, there were 3 young character books that I was getting.  Those were Young Avengers, The Green Team, and The Movement.  Each month, I looked forward to reading all 3 of those titles.  The writing was good, characters were being developed, and there was the promise that anything could happen with these characters because there weren’t any preconceived notions about what these characters should be doing that would limit their development.  Life was good.  And then, within the span of a few months, all 3 titles were cancelled.

This week, I was in my local comic shop, and saw Gotham Academy #1 sitting on the shelf.  I hadn’t really heard much about it, other than that it existed.  But I thought why not, and decided to give it a look.  Just maybe, this could be the young character book that I had been missing.

In short, the issue follows Olive, a girl in her second year at Gotham Academy.  She’s paired with first year student nicknamed Maps, who happens to be the younger sister of Olive’s soon-to-be, possibly ex-boyfriend.  Throughout the issue, we get brief introductions to the side characters, her fellow classmates.  Most of those relationship seem to be adversarial.  We keep hearing that something happened that changed Olive, but it’s not certain as to what.  The only clue really given is that she doesn’t like Batman.  So I assume, Batman is somehow involved in what happened.  This being the first day of school, there’s supposed to be an assembly, but Olive and Maps skip it.  They instead climb the belfry to try to get a better look at the North Hall, which is supposedly haunted.  On the top, Maps leans on some loose bricks, and falls over the side.  Olive uses the rope attached to the bell, and swings down to pull Maps from the ledge she had grab hold of.  Unfortunately, they come to a stop in front of the large glass windows where the assembly is happening, and Bruce Wayne is talking to the students.  He recognizes Olive. Later, Bruce comes to check on her, and she initially freaks out because she thinks it’s Batman.  Back in her room, Olive finds that her roommate is freaking out, because she thinks something is watching her through the window.  Olive looks out, but doesn’t see anything.  However, we see an eye peering through a crack in the wall.

Overall, I enjoyed this issue enough that I plan on getting issue #2.  I thought the writing was pretty good.  I don’t remember reading anything written by Becky Cloonan or Brenden Fletcher, but I thought they did a fine job in giving introductions to the characters, the setting, and setting the tone for the series.  It is exactly what you need to do in the first issue of a series.  Karl Kerschl does the art, and it really works for the title.  What really stuck out to me was the ability to convey facial expressions.  It may seem like a small thing, but being able to enhance the writing with accurate expressions can make or break a book.

So, if you liked any of the 3 titles I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, I encourage you to check out this book.  I just hope that sales are good enough that it will continue for a while.