Comic Review: The New Mutants: Dead Souls

Published: March 14th, 2018 – August 29th, 2018
Written by: Matt Rosenberg
Art by: Adam Gorham, Ryan Stegman (covers)

Marvel Comics, 136 Pages

Review:

I had trouble rounding up the six issues in this miniseries, as the first few sold out quickly at my local comic shop and then the last few seemed to have not been ordered. But now that I got all six issues, I was able to finally read this. I was anticipating this greatly, as I am a long time New Mutants fan and I also love Magik.

But man, this was a mixed bag.

Had I bought and read these from the beginning, I would have quit this series after the second issue. As much as I like these characters, this miniseries started out really f’n bad.

To start, don’t let the nice covers fool you because the interior art is pretty unimpressive. In fact, Magik looks like a blonde wannabe of Lisbeth Slander from those Girl With the Predictable Yet Easily Triggered Goth Attitude books and movies.

Go look at the cover of X-Infernus because that’s how Magik should look in the modern age: all woman. I mean, is she a teenager again or supposed to be? Did I miss some moment in recent years where she reverted back to her younger age? Because she grew into one heck of a badass demon women wielding a magic sword and wearing armor like some sexy Red Sonja villain. Now she looks like my neighbor’s pissy daughter, Chloe. I said “hi” to her once and she just starred at her phone, chewing gum and looking like she was cosplaying as Negasonic Teenage Warhead cosplaying as Axl Rose. I just call her “Chlobot” now and her reaction is the same.

Anyway, the story was pretty unimaginative, at least in the beginning. It started out as a New Mutants versus zombies tale but then it evolved into a mish mash of what felt like random shit. It went from The Walking Dead to fighting a frost giant at the North Pole to a bad plane ride to a funeral to I don’t know, it was all over the place.

However, it did pick up and seem more cohesive as it went on. The part about the funeral and it being some mind games from the villain was an interesting twist. I wouldn’t call it original and the twist felt like a cop out, as they couldn’t commit to the more interesting bit but at least it pulled me into the story.

There is a whole side plot about Warlock, which culminates in the big ending of this story but that ending was problematic because it was a non-ending and showed that this six issue miniseries was just a tool to setup something else in the future. The problem with this, is that a miniseries should be pretty self-contained and this wasn’t. It ends in the middle of a larger story arc and I have no idea where this is supposed to pick up or if it even started or not.

Another big issue was the writing and I don’t mean the story, I just covered that. It was the dialogue. Man, it was terrible. These kids talk like every generic and uninteresting Marvel character being written today. They all have the same personality with just minor tweaks. It’s all snark, no likability and it’s a lot of forced humor. You know how some people aren’t funny but try to be funny? That’s just about every character in this book.

I really wanted to like this because I miss the experience I had reading The New Mutants. Sadly, this doesn’t cut the mustard. But I can just go back and pick those old books up anytime, I guess.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: I guess the recent X-Men stuff, which has all been pretty weak if not outright terrible. I’d like to say classic New Mutants but this just doesn’t live up to those great stories.

Comic Review: Magik: Illyana and Storm

Published: December, 1983 – March, 1984
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: John Buscema, Ron Frenz, Sal Buscema, Tom Palmer, Glynis Wein

Marvel Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik is one of my favorite Marvel characters of all-time. I loved her in The New Mutants and in her many appearances since. I never read her origin story, however.

Before getting my hands on this series, I read The Uncanny X-Men #160, which bookends this miniseries. At the start of that story, Illyana is a small child. She gets caught on the other side of a portal. When the X-Men pull her through, just seconds later, she is seven years older. This miniseries fills in that seven year gap and shows how she went from just being a young mutant with teleportation abilities to a powerful sorceress with a magic sword.

Chris Claremont did a damn fine job with the story and each of the four issues were great from cover to cover. This also got away from standard Marvel fare and tapped into a tone and style that was much more in tune with hardcore fantasy fans of the ’80s.

This looks and feels like a comic set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, which was at a peak in popularity at the time. In fact, maybe I never got my hands on this comic because my mum was pretty adamant that playing Dungeons & Dragons with my cousins was going to punch my ticket to Hell. She’s less crazy about that stuff now and weirdly, she’s a big Harry Potter fan.

Anyway, this story kind of reminded me of how I felt when I used to watch the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon on Saturday mornings when my mum wasn’t paying attention to what I had on TV.

This story is pretty damn dark. While it is a coming of age story and very much written for a teen audience, Claremont’s greatness transcends that demographic and I think that most people that love ’80s X-Men or ’80s D&D will enjoy the hell out of this.

It does some really disturbing things to some of the core X-Men characters too. Kitty Pryde is transformed into a werecat creature and then dies, Storm is a badass sorceress and then dies, Nightcrawler is a demon slave and then dies, Colossus, who is Magik’s older brother, is found with his metal shell ripped open and yes… he’s also dead.

Illyana has to figure out her predicament, battle a powerful warlock, take his power and also fight several other demonic and magical forces. Ultimately, she becomes a demon goddess of the awesomest caliber. She may also have had the most screwed up childhood of any X-Men character that wasn’t present at the Holocaust.

I f’n loved this story. It also motivated me to get back into those early New Mutants tales, as it’s been a really long time since I’ve read them.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The Uncanny X-Men #160, which bookends this story and the early New Mutants stuff featuring Magik as a member of the team.

Talking Pulp: Why I’ve Grown to Hate Deadpool

If the title of this article is fightin’ words, then prepare for 1485 more.

I’ve come to the realization that I just don’t like Deadpool. I mean, I used to love him back when Rob Liefeld created him and he was a thorn in the New Mutants and X-Force’s side from time to time. Plus, I was twelve years-old.

But what’s not to like?

He’s pretty much a ninja or at least, he looks like the bastard lovechild of a ninja and Spider-Man. He was also snarky and a pain in the ass. He even wore a badass red outfit with badass swords and badass guns. He had lots of pouches… so many pouches.

However, as much as I enjoyed seeing him pop up in stuff, I never really liked it when he had his own solo comics.

Okay, I did like those first few miniseries that he had because he still wasn’t quite the Deadpool that we would eventually get and I actually loved the bromance between villains Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut. But Deadpool would go on to change and he would also go on to have a villain problem.

Let me get to how he changed first.

In 1997, Joe Kelly came along and wrote an ongoing series for Deadpool. It was here where the character’s real super power debuted: the ability to break the fourth wall. This would continue to be a trait that Deadpool would have going into the future. Without Joe Kelly, Deadpool wouldn’t be talking to you and me, the audience, during his movies. Kelly, essentially turned the “Merc with a Mouth” into Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. It was unique and fun at first but as time rolled on, I personally found it more distracting than amusing. But I also prefer tough looking characters that kick a whole lot of ass to spend less time chatting and more time kicking a whole lot of ass.

But really, breaking the fourth wall is not a super power. And neither is talking and being a snarky jackass.

Deadpool’s actual power is pretty much just a super healing ability, which makes him Wolverine without the claws, cool skeleton and good looks. And since Wolverine speaks softly and carries a big can of whoop ass into every situation, I will always prefer Wolverine.

Wolverine is a man’s man where Deadpool is that awkward thirty-something juvenile guy that shows up at parties, makes a fuck ton of jokes and people just leave the room. And then he follows them around making more jokes, oblivious to the fact that his routine is stale and he can’t converse like a normal, well adjusted adult.

I’m not saying that he’s completely unfunny but there comes a time when you need to nut the fuck up and shut the fuck up. This is why Deadpool is amusing from time to time when he cameos in someone else’s comic but to read 30 pages of his shtick, every single month, doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Point being, he’s a character that is much better and more welcomed in smaller doses.

Now circling back to the villain problem, Deadpool just doesn’t have any that are worthwhile. This is really apparent in his movies. Sure, Juggernaut and Black Tom show up in Deadpool 2 but they aren’t a main focus and are really just afterthoughts in the film.

Deadpool typically goes after one-off scumbags. I guess that’s fine if you only read Deadpool for Deadpool but for the rest of us, we want to see him actually face off with credible threats. Comic stories of Deadpool cracking jokes, leading up to killing a random mob boss have been done to death at this point. Lack of good villains is why I’ve never been a huge fan of the Punisher in his own titles either. I prefer the Punisher when he actually goes against Jigsaw or the Kingpin, as opposed to a random Russian sex trafficker.

The times where I do love Deadpool is when he is a real fish out of water and playing against his typical situation. For instance, whenever he’s trying to court Death and drawing the ire of Thanos. Or in Venomverse when he’s one of a few dozen characters but he finds a way to be more than his one-dimensional self and stands out while adding something worthwhile to the story beyond just comedic relief. I just don’t want Wade Wilson to be to Marvel what Santino Marella was to the WWE for several years. But he’s basically Marvel’s Jerry Lewis. A lot of people liked Jerry Lewis but a lot of people also post Onion stories like they’re real news… still.

Getting back to his humor, what is it mostly comprised of? Sex jokes and chimichangas.

A good sex joke can go a long way but when you’re writing a character that’s in comics for teens, there is only so far that you can go. And really, while this does work for a juvenile audience, the humor is still juvenile and who hasn’t heard these tired ass jokes for years already? Well, assuming you’re older than high school age.

Chimichangas are just delicious deep fried burritos. I guess it’s a funny sounding word but how many jokes can you make centered around chimichangas? Apparently, at this point, over twenty years worth strung over multiple creative mediums. You know that meme of the cartoon taco that says, “I don’t wanna taco ’bout it?” Now imagine someone holding that in your face for twenty-plus years.

Another aspect of Deadpool’s humor is pop culture references. He runs off at the mouth referencing movies, video games, bands and everything else like it’s the final battle in Ready Player One. He’s like Marvel’s equivalent to Family Guy, which I guess a lot of people like but I don’t see the humor in just mentioning some past nerdy thing. Actually, doesn’t that make Deadpool The Big Bang Theory of the Marvel universe then?

When it comes to the comics themselves, looking beyond his humor style, the stories are typically a jumbled up clusterfuck. Everything beyond his dialogue is wacky for wacky’s sake. It’s like reading a Sunday paper comic strip that is stretched from a few panels to 30 pages worth of panels. And nothing in his stories ever seem to hold much bearing over the bigger picture. It’s like every story could just be his own delusional power fantasy where he’s the only one laughing at his jokes.

Additionally, what’s the fucking point of it all? Where is he going as a character? Is he even a character that has the elements that a character should have? What’s his life arc? It’s just a long running aimless joke. Thankfully, the films fleshed him out into something actually tangible with real human emotion but I think that Ryan Reynolds and the writers were smart enough to know that the film wouldn’t succeed as a two hour dick joke. People need to connect to something and Deadpool, in comic book form, doesn’t have anything to connect to. He probably doesn’t connect to you either unless you’re just a basic bitch that thinks Semi-Pro is a better film than The Shawshank Redemption.

Looking back to the beginning at what Deadpool was, as a character, he’s just Rob Liefeld’s attempt at parodying Deathstroke. He was also purposely given a look that is reminiscent of Spider-Man. Deadpool has never been anywhere near as interesting as either of those characters though. Seriously, read Deathstroke by Christopher Priest (the current run of the character) or go back and read Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Deadpool has never had a story arc anywhere near the quality of Deathstroke. And I don’t even need to compare him to the incredible history of the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man.

Other things to nitpick about is that the character has a terrible origin story, the art in his books is usually mediocre, he’s an amalgamation of ’90s cliches that people have made fun of for years, all he cares about is amusing himself at anyone else’s expense, he’s a prick most of the time, he’s barely heroic, he fucks up constantly and we’re supposed to laugh about it because he’s a Mary Sue that can survive anything, he’s usually in the way when other heroes are present and he relies on his healing ability over honing his actual skills.

I used to love Deadpool. But again, I was twelve years-old. I never cared about his own solo books because I guess I never thought he had much to offer outside of quick appearances. But as time moved on, the gimmick ran tired and Deadpool became the Dane Cook of comic books.

Plus, when someone says that he’s their favorite superhero, chances are they didn’t know who the hell he was until three years ago… and they probably don’t read comic books either.

Comic Review: X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda

Published: November, 1990 – January, 1991
Written by: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson
Art by: Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Rob Liefeld, Jon Bogdanove, Rick Leonardi, Guang Yap

Marvel Comics, 299 Pages

Review:

I have wanted a collected version of this story for decades. I have a lot of the single issues but have always been missing a few and haven’t had much luck being able to complete the set over the years (mainly because of the highly sought after New Mutants issues). Plus, the trade paperback version was out of print for a really long time and good copies of it got pretty expensive. But, I was able to get this off of a sale on Comixology for around $5. I think the regular price, even for digital, was a whopping $25 or so.

Anyway, I’m glad that I got this version because it has a whole four issue prologue to the actual X-Tinction Agenda event. The first third of this book is a four issue story arc that happened in The Uncanny X-Men a few years before X-Tinction Agenda and it helps set the stage nicely. Plus, that story was heavy on using Wolverine and Rogue, which are two great characters from that era. You even get some Carol Danvers Ms. Marvel before anyone even really cared about the character.

The main part of this story deals with the X-Men, X-Force and the New Mutants returning to Genosha where mutant genocide is taking place. The villain of the story is Cameron Hodge, considered long dead since Archangel decapitated him with his wings several years earlier. Hodge is such a good villain and frankly, this is my favorite version of the character and the one I experienced first. He hasn’t had the staying power of Magneto, Apocalypse or Mister Sinister but he is, by far, one of the most formidable adversaries any X-team has ever faced.

This has been one of the all-time classic tales in X-Men lore. It was a huge event when I was a kid. And it may not be talked about as much in modern times but this was really where I jumped on to all the other X-books outside of the standard X-Men title. It also set the stage for a lot of major changes to all the books and teams going into the ’90s.

I could talk about the art and the artists that worked on this crossover event but just look at the credits I posted above. Look at those names. This book sells itself just on the merits of that talent level. Add the fact that this is written by both Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson is also pretty f’n incredible.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other major X-Men related events of the era: X-Cutioner’s Song, Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, Muir Island Saga, etc.

Comic Review: Deadpool Classic, Vol. 1

Published on: May 7th, 2008
Written by: Fabian Nicieza, Joe Kelly, Mark Waid, Joe Madureira
Art by: Rob Liefeld, Ian Churchill, Lee Weeks, Ed McGuinness

Marvel Comics, 264 Pages

Review:

I recently re-read Cable & The New Mutants, which collected Cable’s first appearance and his first big story arc as the new leader of the New Mutants team before the roster was shaken up and rebranded as the original incarnation of X-Force. I enjoyed revisiting it, so I figured that I’d also pick up the earliest stories of Rob Liefeld’s other greatest creation, Deadpool.

This collection really does start at the beginning, as the first chapter is issue #98 of The New Mutants, which was the first appearance of Deadpool. Who, awesomely enough, showed up to kill Cable.

The New Mutants #98 was also the first appearance of two other Liefeld creations: Domino and Gideon. However, and not to spoil anything, but this isn’t the real Domino, we wouldn’t meet her for another two years and this character was Copycat posing as Domino. Copycat, for those who don’t know, is actually Vanessa Geraldine Carlysle… the same Vanessa that’s played by Morena Baccarin in the Deadpool movies.

After Deadpool’s quick debut, we get into The Circle Chase storyline, which was Deadpool’s first solo story and his debut self-titled series. This takes place after 20-plus issues of X-Force, as Copycat has been exposed and is parading around as herself in this story. This tale also features the villain team up of Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut with a bunch of other villains and assassins also thrown into the story.

The story after that features Black Tom and Juggernaut again but this time Deadpool has help from Banshee and his daughter Siryn. In this story, Black Tom is being torn apart from his strange physical condition and he needs Deadpool’s DNA to cure his painful ailment.

The last story is just the first issue of what was the first ongoing Deadpool comic book series. It’s a quick read but the highlight is seeing Deadpool square off with Sasquatch of Alpha Flight.

These early stories were cool to revisit but Deadpool, as a character, hadn’t quite been fleshed out to his regular level of greatness by this point. But being that he is a unique character, it took the writers some time to figure out what he was supposed to be.

Deadpool hadn’t found his groove yet but this is still entertaining and a precursor to the character’s greatness. And thing’s do get better after this.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The end of the original New Mutants run and the first two years of the original X-Force run.

Comic Review: Cable & The New Mutants

Published: 1992
Written by: Louise Simonson
Art by: Rob Liefeld

Marvel Comics, 154 Pages

Review:

Being that Cable is going to make his live action debut in Deadpool 2, I wanted to pick up an old collection that I bought back when I was still in middle school in 1992.

This book kicks off with Cable’s first appearance in The New Mutants #87. It then collects the six issues after it, where Cable takes the teenage mutant team under his wing and eventually turns them into X-Force, who would then get one of the best-selling series of its time.

Cable was created by Rob Liefeld, just before he gave us Deadpool. The two characters have been sort of locked together since the early ’90s and it all started right here.

The story kicks off with Cable fighting the Mutant Liberation Front and also gives us the first appearance of their leader, Stryfe. We also see Freedom Force, a group of villains somehow employed by the government. I completely forgot about Freedom Force but then quickly remembered how much I loved Pyro and the Blob in their roles within the group.

The series of seven issues collected here has a lot of cameos. You get to see the original X-Factor team, Caliban, the Morlocks, Sabretooth, Wolverine, Legion, Moira MacTaggert and Sunfire.

Picking this up, so many years later was fun. It obviously wasn’t as good as my young brain thought it was back in the day. However, it’s still a good introduction to Cable and Stryfe and the real starting point of all the events that would eventually lead to the big X-Cutioner’s Song mega event which spanned all of the X-Men titles at the time. This is also a milestone in that it closes out the long running New Mutants series and brings about the genesis of X-Force.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Rob Liefeld’s run on X-Force.

Film Review: Logan (2017)

Release Date: February 17th, 2017 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Based on: the character of Wolverine created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, John Romita Sr.
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez

Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, Hutch Parker Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, 137 Minutes

Review:

To sum up this motion picture in one line: Logan made me sprout a third testicle bigger than the original two combined.

Initial reaction aside, I figured that I should talk about the film more in depth, as opposed to summing up a two-plus hour movie with the length of a tweet. Granted, that’s all people really have time to read anymore.

For those still sticking around, Logan was exactly the film I wanted, the film fans deserved and another clear indication that PG-13 superhero flicks have gotten really fucking lame. Logan like Deadpool before it, got a pretty hard R for a rating. And truthfully, Logan is even more hardcore in the violence department than its predecessor, which relied on not just violence but a lot of good old fashioned potty humor. Logan does not bring the potty humor. Instead, it brings a huge body count and a lot of severed limbs.

The movie is hardly a festival of gore but it certainly isn’t an X-Men picture for the kids or those who are offended by a little… okay, a lot of blood splatter and knives through heads.

Logan is not a comic book movie relying on cheap parlor tricks, however. It is a damn good movie, through and through. Everything good about The Wolverine is magnified here, without the flaws. James Mangold directed both films but with Logan he showed how far he has come since the last solo Wolverine movie and this, the final chapter in the character’s seventeen year and nine film run.

This was like the Mad Max: Fury Road of comic book movies. It was gritty, balls out and pulled absolutely no punches. Where I was sure it would try and play it safe, it did not. In fact, I was a bit taken aback by some of the things that happened but the shock of those moments, made the film greater than it would have been if the filmmakers let off of the gas.

The picture was shot magnificently and it plays more like a modernized western, which it actually is, than a popcorn comic book flick. The film even shows Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier showing the classic western Shane to the young Laura, the girl he and Logan are protecting from a posse of really bad men.

It was nice to see the film feature Caliban, who was a total jerk in the comic books, but the story here shows him later in life, trying to somewhat atone for the sins he committed against his kind.

Laura, or X-23, is also really great and she is actually better than I could have imagined her before seeing the film. She does some really intense things physically and fights like no other kid has, in the long history of watching movies. X-23 makes Kick-Ass‘ Hit Girl look like a Powerpuff Girl.

Charles Xavier, or Professor X, comes full circle as a character. Sure, we saw his end way back in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand, the finale of the original trilogy of films, but this was a more fitting and sentimental end to the character’s story. Also, Patrick Stewart knocks it out of the park like never before. Having played this character for so long, Stewart was really connected to Xavier on a deeper level than what has been seen before Logan.

The villains were pretty interesting and the best of the Wolverine trilogy. Boyd Holbrook played the cool and calculating cyborg soldier Pierce. Richard E. Grant played Dr. Rice, an evil scientist that feels a lot like a classic Peter Cushing character. There was another big bad that Wolverine had to match up against but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film.

Logan is one of the best superhero films ever made. Its strength is that it isn’t done in the vein of other superhero films. It is its own thing like Deadpool was a year earlier. It challenges the formula, breaks the mold and has genuine gravitas. It is heartwarming and painful. It generates a level of emotion missing from the genre. It also feels a lot closer to reality than anything else that has ever come out from the worlds of Marvel or DC.