Punisher vs. Thor

For a man like Punisher who’s so grounded in human limits and reality (to a certain extent), he’s more similiar to Thor — a Scandinavian thunder god who can fly and shoot lightning — than we think. Thor’s hammer isn’t for carpentry, after all.  Ever since Punisher’s teenage years and when Thor was an adorable godling, these two have been entrenched in the soldier lifestyle.  Hell, I bet Thor’s killed more people than Punisher could dream of.  But today, they have to fight, as (are you sitting down for this?) the Punisher is currently on the run from the law.  Time for Avengers to take care of this matter, hence our upcoming conflict from Punisher: War Zone #3, written by Greg Rucka and drawn by Carmine Di Giandomenico.

Frank Castle currently hides in Nicaragua, and by hides I mean wrecking havoc on every weapons trader he comes across.  For a man wanted by every enforcement agency in the known world, he leaves quite a mess everywhere he travels.  So, after the Punisher bested Spider-Man and Black Widow, a more powerful force needs to be called in.  All that’s left is for Thor to find his prey.

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We can be honest here, right?  The Punisher doesn’t stand a chance against Thor.  Not a freakin’ chance.  No weapon or device in his arsenal can even scratch Thor, much less take down the strongest Avenger.  Seriously: Castle could shoot with him with every bullet, rocket, grenade, mine, and whatever alien guns he’s using — it wouldn’t even make Thor bleed.  So being the smart soldier, knowing his time with Thor holds only one conclusion, he’ll have to use the thunder god for something useful instead.  After all, Thor’s better against these weapon traders than every bullet, rocket, grenade, mine, and alien gun the Punisher possesses.

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You remember that scene from Avenging Spider-Man #4 where Hawkeye explains to Spider-Man that he can never, ever miss an arrow shot, because on a team with gods, wizards,  Iron Men, super soldiers, and more, a single missed shot would only make him a normal man instead of a superhero capable of competing on the same level as his other teammates?  It’s relevant.  Punisher most likely spent weeks tracking these men down, finding their weaknesses, engaging in long firefights, watching out for flanking, etc. — and Thor takes down the whole camp in seconds with a single lightning strike. Damn right Hawkeye never misses.

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Now comes the philosophy part of our battle.  I guess the “vs.” in the title is misleading, huh?  No more punches get thrown, but we do get a very revealing moment as we all realize that of course Thor understands everything about Punisher’s mission.  Captain America understands the horrors of war, and Wolverine understands the necessity of killing, but Thor gets why he fights.  While our thunder god may not be on the same intelligence level as Tony Stark, he has a wisdom gained in his thousands of years that the others occasionally lack.

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I’ve made it my personal mission in my own life to never take advice from anyone wearing a cape, but Castle will just have to obey.  It’s not like he can run away.  And that al-Qaeda beard of his won’t let him book any escape flights anyway.  Let Thor rant about war for a while, because it’s most likely the topic he knows the most about anyway.  That or mead.

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“I fight in a war,” the Punisher states, but how amazingly poignant is Thor’s response to that line? “No, you have made a war so that you may fight.”  Just as that exact same reasoning can apply to a multitude of heroes (Batman), we know the end result.  The Punisher’s comics must continue and thus any sense Thor makes will be thrown to the wind.  And oh my goodness does it.  Two issues later and Castle fights Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Captain America, and Thor all at once. It’s an eight page battle, which is seven pages longer than Superior Spider-Man lasted when he tried to same thing.

Thor’s plea falls on deaf ears to the Punisher.  As Plato puts it, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”  That’s more Punisher’s style.


Invincible vs. Conquest

You know Invincible, right?  Normally I only cover DC or Marvel (if just because that’s where the entirety of my knowledge lies), but we forget that on the fringe edges of the comic book universe, other superheroes fight baddies in their own fictional worlds as well.  Like Invincible, the teenage Superman-esque superhero created by Robert Kirkman (who you know as the writer of the Walking Dead).  It premiered in 2003, and is still going strong over 100 issues all linking to one coherent and beautiful story (both those statements also apply to the Walking Dead).  But since plot seeds get planted dozens of issues before they sprout, a cast of characters that would take many paragraphs to explain, and twists that break and repair your little heart time and time again, it’s sort of difficult to find a good Invincible story to show you all.  Luckily, my dear friend Mark Johnston pointed out something that I can touch upon — the primal emotional brutality of the fight scenes.  Let’s take a look today at one of those from Invincible #61-65, written by Kirkman and drawn by Ryan Ottley.

Luckily, the beginning of this arc gives us a thorough explanation of the past few issues.  Y’know, the arc where Angstrom Levy sent dozens of evil versions of Invincible to totally wipe out large portions of the population.  One of the joys of a world not attached to DC or Marvel is that ability to destroy it and reshape it as much as the writer wants.  This should take care of any major back story:

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There’s Invincible (real name Mark Grayson) sitting bedside next to his girlfriend Atom Eve, who received some injuries during the last battle.  Think of Invincible as a younger Superman-type half-alien superhero — definitely the strongest on his planet, but with a surprisingly more complicated family life than the Man of Steel.  His girlfriend’s a human with pink forcefield powers.  There.  No more beating around the bush, let’s get to the set up.  I really shouldn’t write these things at midnight.

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Long story, but think of the Viltrumite people as Kryptonians and this dude as an uglier General Zod flunkie.  Time for some punching, but if you haven’t done so, you should stop here and read the first twelve issues of Invincible.  It’s not as if you won’t understand today, it’s just that the first twelve issues are really, really good.

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Doesn’t this remind you a little of the Man of Steel movie finale?  In about five images, it won’t, but hasn’t enough time passed that we can admit the movie wasn’t that bad?  A great Superman story? No, not really, but as a standalone action flick?  Totally awesome.

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I’m always secretly excited when the bad guys are drawn to be physically imposing.  Conquest (the supervillain’s name) dwarfs Invincible, despite somewhat comparable abilities.  Good.  I don’t think it’s a jock-versus-nerd mentality as much as simply that bigger dudes are scarier dudes.  How frightening would Galactus be if stood only five-foot ten?  That and it would take him way longer to devour the world.  But I promised you brutality.  Blood and gore, right?  Here’s your first taste:

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Remember when Superman died fighting Doomsday?  It wasn’t as if his buddies weren’t around, it’s that Superman was the only person on the entire planet who stood a chance of defeating this behemoth.  And trust me on this, because Doomsday’s first six issues or so consist entirely of the monster tearing superheroes in half.  So when Conquest flies down to Earth, Invincible has no choice — he’s legitimately the only one with enough power to take this dude down.  There’s no Kryptonite in the Invincible universe, my friends.

Still, what sort of superhero fight would it be if our protagonist’s loved ones didn’t intervene?  Miracles can happen and whatnot, especially when the world is watching Grayson getting his face caved in.

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Time for our hero’s lady to save the day!  She’s a superhero too, gosh darn it, and deserves a piece of action just as much as the Grayson does.  If Invincible and Conquest equally match each other’s strength (maybe Conquest a tad higher), the best plan would be to throw a wrench in the fistfight with some other type of cool superpowers.  Let’s watch.  Remember, even godlike Superman sometimes needs to be saved by the human Batman (though Invincible and Atom Eve tend to make out a bit more than Superman and Batman).

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Oh.

By the way, if Superman decided not to hold back, that’s exactly how his fight against Batman would go.  You can imagine Invincible’s response to Conquest shoving his arm through his girlfriend’s body.

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Listen, Atom Eve isn’t dead.  She doesn’t die here.  But Jason, you say, isn’t that a huge spoiler that ruins almost all the suspense of the story?  Kind of.  But she lives, and I’ll tell you why it’s important you know that: if you want to go back and read the series Invincible, you’d start at the first issue.  But I’m showing you sixty three issues down the line — that means every time you see Atom Eve, her relationship with Invincible, and all the phenomenal build-up, that gnawing little thought burrowed in the back of your brain tells you that she’s going to die.  Why get too attached then?  It’s a spoiler that ruins the experience, so she totally lives.  I promise.

Unfortunately, I’m not giving you the end of the story — go buy the book for that.  Here’s a taste:

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I love this series, and I get just as excited each month about this as my Marvel/DC comics.

Have a great weekend, you deserve it.


Aquaman’s Eel problem

About four years ago, I remember watching Saturday Night Live discuss one of President Obama’s triumphant debates over the Republicans.  I forgot the context and the reason, but Seth Meyers made this joke:

Come on, Republicans … you thought you could take down Barack Obama by debating him?  You realize debates are why he’s President, right?  Seriously, all you guys do is complain how Obama is “all talk,” and then you invite him to a forum that is literally all talk. That’s like saying, “Let’s see how tough Aquaman is when we get him in the water.”

Y’see, each of the DC superheroes has their strengths and weaknesses — some physical, other personality — but those downsides are what make the characters so interesting.  And Aquaman?  So maybe he’s not so great to plop down in the Middle East, but may the DC gods and goddesses help whoever decides to challenge him in the ocean.  The supervillain Eel learns this lesson the hard way today in Aquaman #21-22, volume six, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by Patrick Gleason.

So currently, Aquaman patrols the city known as Sub Diego.  It’s part of San Diego when an earthquake submerged half of it and all of a sudden its inhabitants could breathe in water and no longer breathe air on the surface.  You can read an old article I wrote on it for more details.  But much like all other great DC cities, the mobsters, criminals, and supervillains still make their home there — even if they now live underwater.  Time for Aquaman to show these baddies who they’re dealing with (spoiler alert: Aquaman).

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I’m not saying that a killer whale makes for a better sidekick than, say, Robin, but Hollywood did make four Free Willy movies.  So let’s consider Sub Diego simply a wetter Gotham City.  They even have their very own criminal mastermind, out to take control of the city’s underworld (though isn’t everything sort of considered the underworld now?).  Meet Eel (real name Mortimer Coolidge), a telekinetic so insignificant that he only appears in six issues total.  Three of those are alternative reality Flashpoint issues, so they don’t even count towards canon.  But despite his lousy future, he’s still full of delightful supervillainy ambition.

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When Aquaman has to face the new head of Sub Diego’s mafia — an experience he probably didn’t have to face often in Atlantis — who does he turn to?  Who in the DC universe has fought mobsters more times than Superman’s saved Lois?  And it’s a bunch, because she falls out of a lot of buildings. Aquaman turns to the only other humorless member of the Justice League who, unlike Aquaman, cannot ride his sidekick.

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Can we take a moment and appreciate the cool upwards angle of the Batcave in that first picture?  But let’s talk about Batman’s comment (and ignore him handing Aquaman a deus ex machina) before we continue.  I kinda do think Batman enjoys the “chase,” but that’s only because his entire self revolves around fighting bad guys.  Batman can’t exist in a world without crime, and his claim does apply to most of the Justice League as well.  Hal Jordan lives for the “chase.”  So does Wonder Woman. Green Arrow needs it.  Definitely Nightwing.  Probably not Martian Manhunter, but he has other major issues to deal with.  It’s hard to be a superhero and not enjoy the adrenaline rush that goes with it. Either way, time for Eel to realize the folly of his ways.  Water plus Aquaman equals this:

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Eel’s telekinesis only works around water, but when the local superhero bursts through walls like a fishy Kool-Aid man, what chance does Eel possible have?  On that note, our dear Aquaman makes the mistake all good superheroes do once in a while: he underestimates his opponent.  Mainly because what type of fight would this be if it’s over in a single page?

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Round two, my friends.  Despite Coolidge’s second wind, his opponent wildly outclasses him.  Since I already shamelessly plugged another one of my articles earlier, have you read the article I wrote on mismatched superhero battles?  I should tell you that my self-esteem relies entirely on my blog’s hit count.  Oh yeah, and Aquaman pounds on Eel.

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Look, all these other pages still likely hasn’t convinced you of Aquaman’s water superiority.  It’s just a normal fistfight at this point.  But y’see, Aquaman can’t lose.  Like he had the fight wrapped up from the moment Eel dropped into the water way back in Sub Diego’s origins.  We’re in Aquaman’s house, and his house is disgusting.

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I hope Batman’s taking notes.


Jubilee’s baby, Pt. 2

Motherhood can begin with a surprise, like rescuing a baby from a terrorist meteor strike in Hungary. Most of the time I assume babies show up mainly from two people who love each other very much in the bedroom, but in the Marvel universe, freak scenarios occur far more often.  The X-Men’s resident vampire now has her own kid, officially and eternally hers, and as we pick up exactly where we left off last time — it’s time for a vacation.  The infant just become an official member of the X-Men, after all. Superpowers include random vomiting and sleeping 18 hours a day.

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Besides Wolverine’s female clone X-23, I bet he has dozens of other identical clones running around so that he can be on every team and in every story and travel to every location in every comic. Oh, and Jubilee doesn’t actually have full leg tattoos, those are just cool leggings.  Remember, she’s more fashionable than we are.  I imagine most of us dress like a shabbier Wolverine, and that’s just our facial hair.

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You ever wonder how the X-Men get so much money?  Professor X comes from a loaded family. Emma Frost is practically a billionaire.  Angel is a billionaire.  The X-Men students run Angel’s company.  The school even sits on a living piece of land — nuclear tests made it sentient, duh — named Krakoa that can grow diamonds.  So Wolverine and friends bankroll the entire school themselves, which includes replacing the exploded jet and paying for massive property damage every three issues or so.

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Jubilee worries she’s too young to have a child?  This girl has traveled the cosmos, fought world-destroying entities, saved the universe dozens of times with only a yellow raincoat and hand-blasted Roman candles. After all that, she can handle a baby.  More importantly, even if Shogo grows up and kills one or two people, she’ll still have done a better parenting job than Wolverine.  That dude’s offspring pop more psychopathy during puberty than zits.  Maybe that’s why dear Logan dotes so much on all the young X-Men girls.  Nothing pervy, just making up for a century of terrible parenting.

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Didn’t know Wolverine knew the real estate market, huh?  So before we begin our next section of the story, we should talk briefly about the X-Men crossover event Battle of the Atom.  As I explain this, no matter how insane this sounds, it actually turned out to be a wonderful story — lots of cool plot twists. I loved it and highly recommend it.  But recently, Beast went back in time to bring the original five X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Iceman) into the present, hoping they would convince present-day Cyclops not to be such a jerk.  Big mistake.  So in Battle of the Atom, two groups of future X-Men go back in time to the present to force the original five X-Men to go back to the past. Essentially, you have five groups of X-Men — Cyclops’ group, Wolverine’s group, the original five group, and the two different future X-Men groups — and SHIELD, all with radically different ideas about what to do with these original five.  I promise you, it’s a great story, no matter how convoluted it sounds.  Anyway, it gives us some important Jubilee/Shogo scenes.

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But all that’s not enough for me to warrant showing you scenes from Battle of the Atom.  Here’s what is: the future X-Men bring with it not only future Colossus with a Hulk Hogan mustache, but future super vampire Jubilee as well.  That and one more surprise.

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Aw, how delightful!  You get a glimpse into the happy-Shogo-and-Jubilee future!  Even with no superpowers, Shogo still gets an Iron Man ripoff armor to go fight bad guys with.  As for current developments in the Jubilee and Shogo adventures, I point you to the most recent arc of X-Men. Unfortunately, I can’t post it because it doesn’t actually end for another two months in X-Men #18, but I’ll give you a tease from X-Men #13, written by Brian Wood and drawn by Clay Mann.

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Go buy the comics, because what kind of monster would you be if you don’t support mutant vampire Asian teenage mothers?

 


Jubilee’s baby, Pt. 1

As we end our series where I update you on what Jubilee’s up to lately (finally you can sleep easy again), she’ll be embracing a role far more dangerous than bloodthirsty vampire: mother.  While raising a child may be scary, raising a child in a world where dodging explosions is how most people get their daily cardio is downright terrifying. Today and Monday, we follow her arduous path in X-Men #1-6, volume four, written by Brian Wood and drawn by Olivier Coipel & David Lopez, to explain how her newest development came to be.  Spoiler alert: it’s an “oops” baby, but not in that way, you pervert.

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Note, this is the baby’s first appearance in comics.  I didn’t skip over any back story — it’s supposed to be all mysterious and confusing.  How did Jubilee end up with a child in Bulgaria?  You know how superhero powers work, they all get the ability to be in the right place at the right time.  With Jubilee in control of her vampire urges (I assume by this point since those are never mentioned), she can totally be a responsible vampire mother.  Plus, babies don’t have a lot of blood anyway.  Though I’m jumping the gun — we have to build up to Jubilee claiming the infant as her own.

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I like to think Kitty Pryde said the words “oh my god” as opposed to only announcing the letters.  That girl must be in her late teens by now, not halfway through middle school.  Also, notice the accusations in Storm’s questions?  She straight up thinks Jubilee swiped a baby from some random lady.  But this child has no parents, so finders keepers, I guess.  Welcome to the X-Men, baby.

Oh, and that suspicious man following her?  He’s supervillain John Sublime, hunting his sister Arkea. She’s a technological bacteria.  I’m serious.  And she takes over bodies with her super tech powers, especially those that the X-Men would never suspect.

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Arkea switches from the infant to cyborg superhero Karima Shapandar, the Omega Sentinel.  You saw Days of Future Past, you know what those sentinels can do.  I include the next page only so you can see the gorgeous picture of our vampire and her baby sleeping.  Jubilee looks like a 1970s coke dealer.  And her polka dot socks.  I love it.

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As the X-Men go on the super dangerous mission of hunting down the Omega Sentinel/Arkea combo, I’d like to list off the current team roster: Storm, Rachel Grey, Kitty Pryde, Rogue, John Sublime, Jubilee, and a baby.  And why name the baby Shogo?  It’s a Japanese name (because the child’s Japanese — Jubilee herself is half-Chinese) and from an interview I found with the writer Brian Wood, it’s just a name he liked.  Why not?  You create a character, you name him or her whatever you want. Much like our pets.

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Now it’s official — Jubilee’s a bona fide mother.  Don’t fret that little Shogo’s not a mutant, he’ll still be allowed to live and flourish with the X-Men.  If we’re going to get technical, Jubilee’s not a mutant anymore either and Wolverine still lets her crash at the school.  What’s a vampire among rock monsters, psychics, alien insects, and a boy named Glob Herman?

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With Google coming up empty (especially considering she has no idea the child’s real name and the whole finding him next to a terrorist meteor explosion attack), Shogo will forever remain firmly in the loving hands of dear Jubilee.  On Monday, we have a bunch more updates on these two.  I won’t leave you in the dark when it comes to infant-related news.


The friendship of X-23 & Jubilee

X-23 spends most of her solo series slashing and moping.  That girl may be many things, but happy isn’t one of them.  It sorta comes with the territory of being a Wolverine clone.  Well, that and the test tube birth and being raised since birth to be a merciless killer child.  So now that she’s free of all that evil lab experiment Winter Soldier-esque stuff, dear X-23 (real name Laura Kinney — kind of) has the task of forgiving herself, picking up all those shattered self-esteem pieces, and figuring out her new path in life.  And shaving her back — she’s a Wolverine clone after all.  Gambit accompanies her on her find-herself journey and today in X-23 #10-12, written by Majorie Liu and drawn by Sana Takeda, our cajun role model figures maybe she could use a pep talk.

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See Laura’s slash-first-ask-questions-later policy?  What better proof do you need that she’s Wolverine’s clone?  He claws dudes for ordering light beers at bars, much less possible vampire attacks.  But Wolverine showed up not just to force Jubilee on her — possible friend her age and whatnot — but for that brief moment of sage advice a fellow Wolverine can bring.

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The point Wolverine attempts to make to girl Wolverine lies in our two protagonists teaching each other.  Jubilee needs to learn how to calm her newly spawned killer instincts and X-23 must learn how to not be a sad sack every moment of her life.  By the way, because there’s no other place to put this — the two will meet again in the penultimate issue of X-23 and they go dancing at a club.  Jubilee still has her famous yellow raincoat on amid all the rave lights and attractive people grinding, so my only conclusion is that’s part of her skin now.

Oh, and now X-23 does some questionable.

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Aside from X-23’s recent attempted suicides (healing factor can’t really kill her, so it’s more of an emo teenage girl cutting scenario), her sacrifice serves a greater purpose.  For one, she can’t turn into a vampire due to her being a Rule 63 Wolverine.  But because the Marvel universe can bend the rules on the limitations of mythical monsters, every vampire bloodsucker also absorbs the memories and thoughts, like a creepier version of Rogue.  Or maybe just her.  I’m not an expert on this.

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While X-23 has the the PTSD childhood that would make the sternest therapist cry, she makes a good point to Jubilee while simultaneously knocking off any possible responsibility for the lesson.  X-23 totally understands the desire to kill everyone, that’s pretty much her whole gimmick.  It’s good for both of them to have someone relatable to hang out with.  Wolverine spent decades perfecting his zen — accepting and forgiving his past mistakes — something teenage girls can’t do with a wrong number text much less a former murder spree.  But since we’re reading a superhero comic, we’ll soon get to an incident that requires superhero intervention.  Though first, dress shopping:

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And now the superheroics:

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Let’s talk about trigger scent for a minute.  You know how Wolverine goes into his “berserker mode” anytime someone hits him with a bazooka or smokes his last cigar?  That primal attack-everyone-aiming-for-squishy-parts with his loved ones screaming for him to stop?  The scientists who created X-23 developed a gas that causes the same reaction to her, and as you can suspect from the massive foreshadowing above, our protagonist inhales a whole crapload of that stuff.  Here’s Feral X-23 vs. Vampire Jubilee:

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Jubilee can’t beat X-23.  Sure, the vampire blood makes her faster, stronger, and more undead than Laura, but X-23 has adamantium claws and a lifetime of combat training.  Luckily, the adults won’t let children slice open other children, much like myself when I taught middle school.

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Happy ending for all except Wolverine’s kidney.  Jubilee feels a fraction of a bit better for her predicament and X-23’s about to receive her own marginally improved emotional stability from our dear mall rat.  The irony in Jubilee being undead is that no one enjoys living more than her.  A zest for life that can only be brought from (formerly) shooting fireworks from your hands.

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Jubilee turns into a vampire, Pt. 2

As we left off on Friday, Vampire Jubilee and Vampire Wolverine put a hamper into the X-Men’s plan to defeat this undead enemy — and also have none of them turn into vampires.  Sadly, that solitary neck chomp also brings it with an evil personality devoid of all the good stuff that sunshine, puppies, and such provide.  Well, Cyclops won’t stand for it.  Remember his new ideology of the X-Men being less of a school and more of a highly-trained heavily fortified army?

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Bad guys don’t listen to the threats of Ol’ Laser Eyes (whose eye lasers are not compressed energy but instead portals to a universe that doesn’t follow the laws of physics — or something like that). Plus, Cyclops hasn’t smiled all arc.  Masterminding the potentially greatest slaughter of vampires ever known can be quite stressful.  But Xarus, being a traditional supervillain who doesn’t realize that the superheroes always emerge victorious, attacks the X-Men base Utopia with the full vampire force because he has to learn his lesson the hard way.

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Vampire Wolverine has the benefit of being unfiltered and evil as opposed to his normal unfiltered and curmudgeony.  Nowadays, the X-Men preside as the Batman of the Marvel universe, in that they have plans for every single possible scenario — poor planning prevents the extinction of the few hundred remaining mutants against almost ten thousand bloodsucking monsters and Vampire Wolverine. Anyway, they win.  Go buy the book for all that.  Most important to today’s topic:

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Yes, now instead of a being a powerless nobody, Jubilee now gets to walk the streets as a hungry, bloodthirsty night demon.  It might have been better for her emotional health if she stayed useless. Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier, there’s no going back — vampirism doesn’t cure if someone doesn’t possess a healing factor or the writer no longer wants her to be a vampire.

We jump five issues to a simpler time, where Professor X still had that shred of kindness and teacher-ness deep inside him before all that uncovered psychic manipulation tainted his reputation.  We start with an angry Jubilee, as most people who are turned into vampires against their will tend to be:

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In this issue, he tells a long story from his pre-Magneto past where he tracks hunters in Africa.  The story itself doesn’t become relevant until the final scenes, when he meets a special man.  Or used to be man.

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You can probably guess his secret.  Hint: it starts with a “v” and ends in “–ampire.”  Like all mythical monsters, you get the good and the bad populating a universe with billions of other fictional people. Take DC’s sword-wielding Frankenstein.  DC’s ghost Deadman.  Half of Blade.  So when Professor X assures Jubilee that her actions from this point have no influence from the vampire baddies of the past, he has proof.  That and the only vampire to ever wear a tank top.

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On Wednesday, we’ll read more Vampire Jubilee stuff, because I’m never afraid to beat a dead horse well beyond the point of embarrassment.


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