I love BLEACH. While there’re objectively “better” mangas out there, what Tite Kubo started in 2005 is still one of my greatest inspiration in creating fiction, because underneath the flashy fight sequences and repetitive storylines, there’s an outstandingly intelligent story filled with profound themes, and amazing characters. So, now that we entered the final phases of this epic tale, I decided to re-read and review the entire opera up until this moment. Follow me in the…

BLEACH RETROSPECTIVE I: The Death and the Strawberry (Volume 1 to 8)

The opening of BLEACH is a rapid-fire descent into absolute insanity, as our protagonist Ichigo Kurosaki beats up some jocks, strolls down a road talking to a bleeding dead girl and gets into a fist fight with his father, all of which is played entirely for laughs. And from there, things just get both sillier and grittier, with a disembowelled magical warrior-woman that sucks at drawing shows up to give us clunky exposition on this crazy world rules, while a giant fish-frog monster attacks the house. It’s a perfect opening for the series (expect for the clunk exposition of course), that gives us all the best elements of Kubo’s writing.

You laugh at the funny moments and you tremble when the blood starts getting spilled, and the transition between these emotions are incredibly smooth and work out perfectly, something that is often hard to do for many other. Too many times, a mood-switch this radical from slapstick comedy to monster rampage gives us readers a sense of confusion, like the plot is schizophrenic and doesn’t know what it wants to be, but BLEACH knows exactly what it wants to be: entertaining. Like many others, I was immediately hooked by the amusing humor, the viciously cathartic action and most of all, BLEACH’s strongest point when put in comparison with any other work of fiction: the instantly likable characters.

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I generally like Ichigo better in these earlier chapters than in the rest of the manga. He’s a great character overall, but the more the plot progresses, the more he loses this edge he as at the beginning. When the story starts he’s much more energetic and brash in his actions, wonderfully disenchanted and deadpan in the comedy, and throw tantrums more often. That’s understandable of course, this is before really harsh battles, doppelgangers and grievous injuries start weighting on him, forcing him to grow up in a more mature, contained individual. The same goes for the mood of the story. Frequently characters and expression are heavily stylized and sketched to generate humour, something that will fade in the background and used rather rarely once shinigami and arrancars start rising their heads.

That isn’t to say there’s a lack of darkness here, in fact, one of my favourite scenes is the chase Ichigo gives a particular hollow, former serial killer, that forced the spirit of a child into slavery. The way our hero sadistically beats and taunts the monster is incredibly cathartic. It shows another side of his personality that will later be relegated to his evil doppelganger, a certain joy in winning battles and delivering some really harsh punishment. The Ichigo of the first volumes has this punkish, slightly antiheroic streak that goes through his personality, that makes him stand out in my opinion, from the one he will eventually grow up into. That’s at least the impression I generally get.

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Rukia Kuchiki is also much more amusing in these first volumes and the same goes for Orihime. For the former is her double role as teacher and sidekick for Ichigo that allows her to generate and dispense all the humour and quirkiness. The two of them together work perfectly and are laughing machines you can’t stop enjoying. The same will happen with Rukia and Renji later on in the Soul Society. But when she’s on her own, Rukia is not that particularly thrilling of a character, her primary traits being the sense of guilt and inferiority she feels towards her adoptive brother and her deceased master, making her more suited for drama than for comedy. When put against a straight player (or at least, slightly less crazy than her), then she’s allowed to be funny and energetic and wacky, making her much more endearing.

Orihime has the edge on this department, because she sprouts out madness on her own, making her impossible not to like in these phase. Her joie de vivre and imagination are exhilarating: one of the best comedic moments of the series is her imagining a romantic walk in the park with Ichigo, a fantasy that slowly drifts, turning a marathon, then a boxing match, then a murder plot. All this will be a bit lost in the shuffle of the Soul Society, where she’ll have to though up and fight the fight, and it will be completely shattered in Hueco Mundo, where her character is reduced to a whimpering, whiny and annoying damsel constantly needing rescue, probably the greatest tragedy of BLEACH.

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Uryuu Ishida doesn’t do much to leave an impression at first: immediately he’s positioned as the cliché prodigy-rival from an extinct race/clan. Kubo slowly manages to make him more appealing by simply not treating the whole business too seriously. Uryuu may seem just another dark, serious friend-enemy, like Sasuke from Naruto or Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z, but he gets angry and makes ridiculous decisions like anybody else: the idea of fighting Menos Grande with Ichigo’s sword strapped to his head is a shining example.

Of the five core characters, Chad is probably the less interesting from my point of view. Not that there’s anything wrong with him, in fact I quite like the guy, but of all he seems to be the ones that conforms to a role the most: Chad is the big gentle giant and that’s kind of it. Sometimes he reference his past as a guy who used his strength to hurt others, and was straighten up by his granpa, but we never actually see that enough, making us feel the change, and what we’re left with is a calm, collected boy who says way too little for us to care about him.

A collective thought that describes these characters and makes them likable is that they’re all “uncool”. The manga itself is presented as “cool”, the characters wear “cool clothes”, in the covers they’re always posing like badasses, but the truth is, they’re not: they’re a bunch of slightly insane/slightly idiotic players, short-tempered, unfocused, irresponsible. The greatest thing about the first 7 volumes, is that Kubo never forgets this: the situation may be desperate, the battle may become gigantic and threaten the whole fabric of reality, but these people often don’t seem to care, making joke, hitting hollows with light poles, torturing the magical fairies that just appeared from nowhere. The world of BLEACH is instead reasonably dark and serious, therefore, by putting the two of them together, what comes out is a comedic duo. The cast is the funny guy and the setting as a whole is the straight man of their comedy routine. And these are only the five main ones. I could spend pages upon pages talking about all the others that infest Karakura Town.

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The hollows are much darker and threatening in this side of the story. Before they were completely defanged and became into generic monsters of the week, the hollows were legitimately scary and they helped construct an atmosphere of horror around the plot. In the earliest volumes, you often forget you’re reading an action adventure shounen, and you’re instead transported in a haunting j-horror filled with foreboding signs of paranormal activity, like a teddy bear breaking up and bleeding. The fact that Kubo’s never shied away from grizzly details and brutal fight-scenes accentuates the mood.

In a smart bit of self-awareness, just as we’re about to change entirely focus and ascend to the Soul Society, Kubo will make a mockery of the whole ghost-story style of this prelude by having heroes being gathered through a massage in blood appearing on the walls and streets.

Going back, I nostalgically remember how impressed I was by the sheer size and power that the Menos Grande oozed in the pages once he first stepped out of the giant tear into the sky. The world of spirits and hollows felt much more grandiose and terrifying, a nightmarish land of Lovecraft’s level abominations waiting to be released upon our world. All emotions caused by ignorance of course. We still didn’t know that the Menos is nothing but one of many dumb skyscrapers than tiny little warriors with magical swords can kill off with their bare hands. This is a common problem of escalation in shounen of course. Everything in the earlier chapters always feels bigger and more impressive, and once we get to the point where the characters can swing a sword and cut the planet in half, most of the magic is gone.

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Actually the concept of Hollows is kind of wasted in some ways. Being once normal spirits, corrupted by their inability to accept their destiny, these ghosts have the potential to not simply be opponents to slay, but also real characters, with reasonable motivations and sympathetic in their desperation. Yet we only see this in Sora, Orihime’s vengeful and embittered brother, as all the others Hollows are just a bunch of remorseless sociopaths. Another thing that ended up being wasted potential is Hell itself, introduced in Volume 2 in all his ominous glory, as Kubo designs the splendidly terrifying Gate that drags evil hollows down into the hellish realm. It is something we’ll never see again, except in one of the movie, which I usually avoid watching. Back in time, learning that Kubo was a Saint Seiya’s fan, I imagined he was setting up hell to do his version of the Hades Chapter, with old villains and bad guys coming back from the grave for a final confrontation. Volume 7 of BLEACH is titled “The Death Trilogy Overture”, and I always theorized this trilogy would have been Act 1 Soul Society, Act 2 Hueco Mundo, and Act 3 Hell. But no, Hell in BLEACH is just a nice double splash page and nothing more.

Kubo’s style is much different here, and I don’t talk simply about the artworks, which are much less smoother, but angular and sharp on most faces (which I kind of like). The pacing most of everything, is what’s different from the future: in general the manga is much more brisk and quicker. We’re now used to an extremely decompressed, highly theatrical use of pages by the author (something I will get into later), but here, everything is much more tight and condensed, with many more panels, and the amount of information delivered is bigger. It’s a longer, chunkier read, that takes much more time and energy, and because of this, is often much more satisfying on a narrative level.

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Like many other shounens, the first volumes are all separated adventures meant to establish the rules of the world, and pretty much all of the are rather interesting, with a few exceptions of course. The whole business regarding Don Kanonji seems to be there to set up Uryuu Ishida’s presence and give some half-hearted lesson about what it means to be a hero, but as a whole, it comes across as white noise. Its quirky, its funny, its entertaining, but it does speak volume that Kanonji won’t appear again for years to come. Another that that seemed pointless was turn the Shun Shun Rikka into an entire legion of elfs. Giving Orihime something cute and little to interact with will result in a lot of funny moments, but as a whole, they’re just a bunch of designs smashed together without any real character to speak off.

After the arrival of Byakuya and Renji, the manga takes a turn changing radically the status quo of Ichigo, now officially a shinigami using a dead body to stroll around the city, and starts the first of many training session to let him learn new tricks to fight. And with tricks, I mean, Getsuga Tensho and that’s all. It’s amusing to notice how “training” in the world of BLEACH is just more fighting, first with kids, then with Urahara. The best part comes while entering the world of Old Man Zangetsu, a rather trippy and inventive scene that plays on our sense of orientation. In lights of the manga most recent astonishing plot twists (you know the ones), one rereads these chapters asking himself “Is it being foreshadowed in some way?” I can’t help but say “No, it doesn’t”, but we don’t see nearly enough of the Old Man to really understand the exact nature of him, so for now, I’ll leave it at that.

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Thanks to a genius mixing of humour and darkness, together with an ensemble cast of charmingly inane protagonists, BLEACH and Tite Kubo succeeds in about every level in entertaining its audience. While in hindsight a lot of the stuff introduced results being kind of pointless in the long run, taken on its own merit, the beginning of the manga is a wonderful joyride from page one forward.

Favourite volume’s cover:

Kubo’s earliest covers all share a common problem that was resolved only later on: each word of the title is in a different colour. That may sound stupid, but it deprives the overall picture of a consistent tone, and with that, hurts the image as a whole. It doesn’t help that Kubo still rusty characters model are often not as attractive as we’re used to, and their poses are often unimpressive.

My favourite ends up being the striking cover of Volume 8. The silhouette of Old Man Zangetsu and his positioning on the cover makes for a unique and striking look, and the choice of title is nice. I would have preferred a higher contrast between black and white, not the blackness being shredded by stains of red, but that’s my opinion.

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BLEACH Retrospective, coming soon:

*The Death and the Strawberry (Vol. 1-8)

*The Soul Society Saga Opening (Vol. 9-13)

*The Soul Society Saga Finale (Vol. 14-20)

*The Arrancar Saga Part 1: Invasions and Wizards (Vol. 21-27)

*The Arrancar Saga Part 2: Hueco Mundo & Pendulum (Vol. 28-36)

*The Arrancar Saga Part 3: Fake Karakura (Vol. 37-43)

*The Arrancar Saga Finale: Deicide (Vol. 44-48)

*The Lost Agent (Vol. 49-54)

Start the Conversation

If I was writing: Ms. Marvel

Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel. I love this character.

Despite many faults, Ms. Marvel Volume 2 by Brian Reed is one of my all time favorite comics. Well, at least up until issue 32. After that I believe the book had a tragic decline in quality, and Dark Reign completely killed my interest for it, so much that I didn’t even bothered following the story up until the end in issue #50. Maybe someday I’ll go back and read it (I already did in a few instances)… Still, Carol Danvers is Marvel’s top lady as far as I’m concerned, with a stable role in the Avengers books as well as in the House of Idea mythos. Following, my take on another series for her, with focus on some plot points, character behavior and relationships, and story arcs.

The Book: Genre & Plot Elements

Done in One

Some superheroes are just “there”. You know, you have characters that have a clear motifs that you can use to write story around: Captain America is tangled with the military and war world 2, Batman is a detective, Wolverine is practically a samurai, Wonder Woman and Thor have mythology etc etc. But some superheroes are just standard in powers and characterization that is difficult to make them work solo. I find Ms. Marvel that, because of her powers: aside from the fact that she can absorb energy, her power set is pretty generic. She’s a classic flying brick. Character like her work great in team books were you always need the eclectic hero who can multitask with strength, invulnerability, flight… but in a solo book, those character tend to be too generic to work with long extended story arcs.

They are better with “simple” stories. Short adventures, lot of fun, lot of action, some character development throw in there. Quick tales connected to each other that help the character grow but still manage to remain self-contained. In my Ms. Marvel, the majority of stories would be Done in One adventures, one issue, one problem, climax, resolution. Most writers today tend to shy away from done in one, because they know there’s a bigger chance the trade is going to sell and they know a single issue story is much easier to f**k up. But I’m arrogant, and I think I can pull it off.

Single issue stories also allow attracting more readerships. Maybe somebody doesn’t buy issue 3, but they can buy issue 4 and just enjoy it as much. A lot of readers also tend to ignore a series when they have long story arcs, thinking “Well, I’ll just buy the trade”.

The Weird

I said Carol was basically a flying brick, but that’s unfair. She had connection with space and the spy world. One of my favorite writers is Warren Ellis. I loved the Authority, I loved Global Frequency, and I’ve loved his short but incredible run on Secret Avengers. All these series have in common the same extra-world, ultra-secret, transhumanism, horror elements. Big ideas, high concepts, oddity and monstrosity: that’s the route I would take with a Ms. Marvel series. With her ties in spies and space she can be pull in any sort of crazy insane situation that would allow for that sort of work. While the classic superhero elements can’t be removed (and shouldn’t) Ms. Marvel is a character that would work perfectly in the world of the unknown and the disturbing.

Of course, you can’t make an entire run of one shots, and a plot must be building up, character must meet, talk, develop, greater stories must be told…

Wonder Man

Like I said in my personal version of the Revengers, I don’t like the way Bendis made Simon a villain, but I like the idea, and so I would roll with it.

Simon and Carol go back a long way. We are talking about two characters that authors tried to pair up since 1978. They had their stories in the middle, with other men and women, but you could always feel a connection between the two of them. This relationship became almost central in Reed’s Ms. Marvel and Bendis’ Mighty Avengers, with differences. In Reed they weren’t actually together, and slept once, with Bendis they were a couple in all regards. I think the first case is the one more interesting to keep using. A romance between the two can still be built, but it will be much darker, something based on the past, something without future. He attacks Carol and offers her a position in a new team of Revengers he’s building up. She, of course, refuses.

Warbird Returns

“Dumped” by Carol, Simon still has an alternative, plan B: Warbird. Introduced during Brian Reed run, she’s an aggressive and bloodthirsty version of Carol from a different universe. Defeated by Carol she was take under custody by SHIELD agents and never seen again. I would bring her back. Simon finds her in a prison of the government. During the battle with Carol, Warbird underwent serious burns: her face is deeply scarred, her hair grown randomly. Kept locked for years, alone, she’s now suicidal, barely on the edge of sanity, almost psychotic. Simons makes her his second in command. Her mind almost shattered, she’s start idolizing him from freeing her. It’s a tragic love story as Warbird falls for Simon, but he’s attracted to her only because of the real Carol. Realizing this, she makes her mission to kill Ms. Marvel so that she can be the only in Simon’s heart.

Other Enemies

To survive, a hero needs a decent rogue gallery. I find the one Carol got astonishingly lacking. Aside from Warbird, Reed also introduced the terrorist Ghazi Rashid and Warren Traveler, a former sorcerer supreme from the House of M reality… both went MIA after their first confrontation, both were pretty boring characters. I see room for improvement in Warren, as a magician he can be tangled in the new “weird adventures” style of the narration. Ghazi is nothing more than an indestructible human-weapon. He only deserves limbo.

That being said, Carol needs big enemies, world shattering threats and reality warping multidimensional nightmares: in my stories expect cosmic abominations, shadow omniscient groups and other craziness on the same line. The fourth of Reed’s creation is the Storyteller, a little kid that can creates everything he wants and change reality how he pleases. He appeared only in annuals and specials. Now this one is a threatening individual, with a few updates I’ll make him come back. At his return he’s aged and desires to reshape a world similar to the one of M, so that Ms. Marvel could be the greatest existing hero once more.

Keeping on the “Ms. Marvel needs big enemies”, two guys are especially big and free for the taking:

*After the end of Exiles, King Hyperion is a character who desperately needs a place in the Marvel Universe. That place is Ms. Marvel’s enemies. The two have a loose connection: during the Exiles, when first introduced, KHyperion had as lover a psycho version of Carol from another universe. So, I see him searching for her to use Carol as a new bride for him, in a new quest to take over our world.

*The Mark Millar’s character known as Marquis of Death (from Fantastic Four) is another tragically underused baddie. Another one in the line of “absurdly overpowered beings who lack any true personality”, the Marquis has on his side a cool design that makes him a visually compelling threat. He was indeed killed during a story that most writers simply ignored afterwards, but that’s hardly something that stops writers. This man has a strong presence, a distinguish figure and scary powers.

Monsters of this caliber are what Carol needs to prove again and again how much she’s worth. As for her “archenemy”, Mystique, I have no interest in her, as a villain or as a character. Really, zero interest. She’s not gonna be seen.

New Powers

During the course of the story, Ms. Marvel is “forced” to absorb a weird non-earthly energy. This factor would later bring her body to produce enhance her powers in a way similar to her Binary capabilities. She’s sporadically capable of tapping into this energy, but her body is affected by the use, causing her nosebleeds and nausea. This powers play a larger role on the long run and by the end she posses full control over them with no side effects. Much like Binary, when using these new abilities, her hair produce fire, her eyes become empty and her skin slightly reddish.

The Characters: Personality & Roles

Carol’s Personality

Mopping and angst-ridden superheroes are the focus of a lot of books. It creates drama, drama makes for interesting characters, interesting characters make for good books. But it is also true for the opposite. During Reed’s run, Carol was often questioning herself, her motivations, her actions. Her life was a train wreck and she was derailing with it, often on the breaking point. A different approach would be nice. While still maintaining her hard nail personality, I see Carol as a more optimistic fun-loving character. Even in difficult situations, after great tragedies, I see her as the woman strong enough to keep smiling and caring on, without letting the sadness get her.

Since she was young, she always wanted to fly. So she’s someone who enjoys her powers and her abilities… I imagine her wasting time, as a hobby, swimming in the clouds, letting herself go down the sky, stop flying to let gravity pull her down, her mind empty, without stress, preoccupations, nothing to disturb her in the world. Then sitting on the top of buildings, let the wind flow through her, take deep breaths of fresh hair. She’s a free spirit, she’s pure, she loves her life and she’s without fears.

Carol has military experience, she’s a thinker and always tries to come up with a plan to deal with the dangers she faces. Yet, I would see her at times short tempered and just a little unwise: she isn’t shy or modest. Carol knows perfectly what she’s capable of, what incredible powers she has, and it’s not afraid on jumping straight forward in a risky situation if she thinks she can handle it. In combat, I’ll treat her pretty much like Geoff Johns handles Hal Jordan… they’re both fighting jets pilots, so I think the similarity in their acts shouldn’t be a surprise: a little cocky, a little brash, sometimes arrogant, always sure of her ideas.

Jessica Drew

Carol’s official best friend, her greatest support and confident… they’ll go together in bars and nightclubs, have fun, dance, sing karaoke, all the good stuff. In their friendship I’d put a gentle Sapphic vibe. They share a history of rocky and confusing relationships with various individuals, and spending time talking, confessing each other, helping, supporting the other, ends up creating a certain tension between the two of them. Nothing too controversial, gratuitous or explicit, but it’s there, they flirt with the idea and even joke about it… that’s the moment were things get awkward, and instead of word they share an embarrassing silence.

Hank McCoy

He’s Carol’s second closest friend, another connection with the Simon’s tragedy and a scientific counselor for the sci-fi stuff that is going to happen to her.

Doctor Strange

Old friend and companion in the New Avengers, Strange is a valuable ally for our protagonist in a series concentrated on the mysterious and the unexpected. They had a casual flirtatious attitude toward each other in the few Reed’s issue he appeared, and that’s another component that can be played with, thought making them an official couple is a big no. Still, a dinner date wouldn’t be a bad idea, would it?


Carol’s Persian cat. Where the hell did he end up? Well, doesn’t matter, he’s back.

The Story: Arcs & Projects

Lost Moments

The “Lost Moments” are special issues that change the focus and stop following the main storyline. Every once in a while a LM issue comes and shows us Carol in a different light or situation. We can have different worlds, different universe, or still the main one, focusing on Carol’s past life, her first experiences as a superhero, flash out her role in big events, expanding scenes in canon that were skimmed away. Call them “What If” call them “Elseworlds”, the Lost Moments purpose is to explore Carol personality and role in different contests and to flash out more of her in the current world. Some ideas floating my head would be:

*LM/House of M: a quick look at Carol’s life in the House of M reality, where she was the greatest hero ever existed.

*LM/Youth: child-Carol shows her first signs of heroism.

*LM/Old Lady Carol: a tale of an aging but still powerful Ms. Marvel in the Old Man Logan reality, traveling around the country. Long silver hairs, some wrinkles, a more restrained costume, same mission: helping those in need.

*LM/After Siege: Carol’s learns that Wonder Man doesn’t want to join the new Avengers and confronts him on this decision.

*LM/The Fire: a look at a world where Ms. Marvel is a supervillain and one of the Avengers most lethal enemies. We follow her in a last battle to the death against the team.

The Unmarked Saga

The enigma about Carol’s new powers forms a big non-continuous storyline that starts the moment she absorb part of a mysterious energy cloud. A secret council of hooded individuals follows her movements and spies her action, to study how she learns to control this new force and how it evolves inside of her.

Quest of the Marvels

Lost Moments serves also as a build up to a bigger storyline. A group of Ms. Marvels from around the Multiverse is gathered by a mystical force, as soldier in a conflict that could save or doom all reality. Against them, there’s another squad of Marvels. But it’s not a good vs evil confrontation, as in the groups there’re both heroic and villainous Carols. Something much more sinister is playing in the shadow, and they might be just puppets of a bigger enemy. Quest & The Unmarked are slightly related.

Wonder War

Practically the sequel to the Revengers story arc by Bendis. Climax of my run, is the final confrontation between the Avengers and the New Revengers, this time much bigger in number and stronger in members. But the real conflict is the one not only physical but also psychological between Carol and Simon, with Warbird as the variable. Lessons must be given and learned, blood will be spilled together with tears, and somebody could not make it out ok…

And now: A Year of Ms. Marvel

Issue#1 The Best once More: Carol is restarting her life. New apartment, new neighbors, new way of looking at things… the morning after, she finds Simon Williams in her kitchen cooking eggs for her breakfast, as he needs to talk to her about a “proposal”. The two end up in a brutal conflict. Wonder Man is able to break Carol left arm, “winning” the fight. He then proposes her to be second in command of the New Revengers. At her refusal, he leaves.

Issue #2 Love Hurts: In the Aftermath of the battle with Wonder Man, Carol has to stay in a hospital. Hank McCoy visits her for a friendly chat and in the meantime, Simon frees Warbird from a SHIELD’s prison. The two of them share a kiss.

Issue #3 Unmarked: Carol fully recovers just in time: an “interference” forms around New York City. It’s a shapeless, highly energetic construct that appeared out of nowhere. The energy output was strong enough to destroy every machinery sent inside the thing to observe it, and since she’s able of absorbing energy, Carol offers herself for the investigation. Her journey inside the construct is anything but quiet. The energy she absorbs during her mission is the base of her new powers, the beginning of the Unmarked Saga and the first step towards Quest of Marvels.

Issue #4 Imperial Wedding: Carol has to confront another crazy “ex”, as King Hyperion appears to break havoc in New York. They battle their way across the city up to New York Harbor where he tries to kill her by throwing a ship full of people at her. She manages to save everybody but Hyperion escapes her.

Issue #5 Blessed by Fire: A residential building catches fire. Ms. Marvel, on patrolling, notes the flames and intervenes to help. At this point, a man with fire-based superpowers inside the building tries to stop her. He claims that the inhabitants of the place are a sacrifice, and the fire is a ceremony to attract the savior, Nihiah. She beats the crap out of him and saves most of the people in danger. As the crazy pyromaniac is taken by the authorities, we cut into deep space, where something gigantic and monstrous awakes.

Issue #6 Lost Moments/Youth: Thirteen years old Carol is involved in a robbery in a store and she’s taken hostage. The situation won’t end well (for the burglar).

Issue #7 White & Black: In the opening monologue Carol declares that she’s enjoying a “me day”. In page two, a vortex made of a black liquid attacks her and traps her inside of a world where there’re no colors (the entire issue is in black and white). In this world, she fights Mud monsters, spider-like creatures, and finds a gigantic empty city. She’s confronted by a human like being who calls himself “God”.

Issue #8 Black & White: The fight with “God” proceeds, as the monster tries to obtain control of Carol body and soul. She manages to fight him back as the new Binary-like powers emerge from her body. The sudden outburst of energy causes the B&W dimensions to crumble in pieces. God disappears and she finds herself in her apartment once more. This story isn’t over yet.

Issue #9 NIHIAH: The monster introduced in issue 5 makes his presence know. He’s an immense tentacle lovecraftian creature that attacks New York. The Avengers responds, and Ms. Marvel is the one delivering the final blow. As the creature literally dissolves, we see that something of it, a strange worm, survived. The being escapes in a sewer. It will be back.

Issue #10 The Amazing Spider-Date II: Jessica Drew comes to Carol apartment, inviting her to spend the night together, having fun. Supervillains try to ruin the festivities and they deal with them without many problems. It’s a friendship/romance building issue. They end up back at Carol’s place and fall asleep on her bed together.

Issue #11 Blood Box: Carol and Jessica wake up from their crazy night afraid that they might have done something stupid. They can’t talk about it too much: an unidentified object appears in Central Park, a house-sized cubic box. A group of Avengers already tried to approach it and disappeared in thin air. Together with Doctor Strange, Carol and Jessica try to go to the rescue. The same happens to them, but Ms. Marvel finds the responsible for this: the Marquis of Death.

Issue #12 Blood Box Conclusion: The Box is a lifeless pocket universe that the Marquis created to contain a duplicate of himself that would be keep causing pain across the worlds in case he, the original, was killed. The powered up Ms. Marvel fights the Marquis across space and time and she’s able to defeat him, causing the destruction of the Box. The heroes trapped inside of it are safe, but maybe the Marquis isn’t gone forever.


Deleted blog post

How can a guy from the dreary old continent like me can write the absolute champion of the USA, Captain America, Steve Rogers, one of MARVEL’s best? Well, let me explain a little.

More Gruenwald Less Brubaker

Crossbones: Promotion

The New Skeleton Crew

The Skull Academy

The Flag-Smasher Army

The Malik Cartel

The Red Skull

Some Story Arcs


If I was writing Special Edition: The Revengers Saga

The Revengers Saga. After reading Avengers Annual #1, the conclusion of Simon Williams and his minions struggle with the Avenger, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. There was a lot of things in this story that could have made for a big epic, there were moments absolutely fantastic, there were possibility to great characters build-up… everything got wasted and drowned in poor pacing and an anticlimacticresolution. But, when you start talking about Bendis, you have big fans of him who jump at you and say “You’re just a hater, why do you read the book if you don’t like it, let’s see you do better!”

So I will try. I think I can make this story better and still come with the exact conclusion of Bendis.

But I’ll take Three Annuals to do it. While I do this, I’ll present some alternative dialogues, some new scenes and describe the differences and what I find wrong with this story. So, let’s go. Beware this is a long one.

Part 1 New Avengers Annual #1

Biggest problem with NAAnnual? Pacing. 1/3 of the book is completely wasted before anything could really happen. We have a raving rambling monologue from Wonder Man that is so long and so boring, I refuse to re-read it. 5 double splash pages pass and you only get some pretty pictures about Civil War-Ultron etc etc. 10 freaking pages! That’s half a normal issue. Why waste so much space when you have an entire group of villains to present? Half of the readership doesn’t know the majority of this characters… why are they here, what’s their motifs, why are they helping Simon? We slim up Simon monologue then jump right into a confrontation with is Revengers to see what they want, during a conversation.

WonderM: It is all about corruption, you see. The Avengers… they’re corrupted. By their powers, by their money, by the press. They think they can do everything, with their ties with SHIELD and the politics. They became a tool of the governments, a tool of the status quo. They think they’re invincible, and like Hank Pym they create their own destruction… they grown fat, and forget about what’s important, leaving friends go insane, like Wanda Maximoff… they become greedy and fight for power, brother against brother, in the Civil War… ask yourself: why the people of this world left a clown, a lunatic like Norman Osborn, take control of their security? Simple. They couldn’t tell the difference between him and the Avengers… because there isn’t a difference anymore!

WonderM: Captain Ultra!

The captain jumps, surprised

Captain Ultra: Uh?!

WonderM: What you can do?

Captain Ultra: I-I… well I can fly… I have super-speed, super-strenght…

WonderM: You have a lot of powers…

Captain Ultra: Indeed…

Wonder M: Why you’re not an Avengers?

Captain Ultra: F**k I don’t know! I was hoping this group could…

Wonder M: It’s your costume.

Captain Ultra: What?

Wonder M: The Avengers are all about appearance. All about what’s outside. They hate and mock you for your costume, and that’s it. It doesn’t matter if you want to help, it doesn’t matter that you can make a difference. Because inside, they’re rotten. Like Iron Man. a shiny armor with a putrid heart.

Goliath: Iron Man…

Goliath said that he was at peace with Iron Man, that he has forgiven him. But really, how can you completely forgive the unpunished death of a loved one.

Wonder M: You know what he’s capable of, right Foster?

Goliath: I tried to ignore, I tried to leave it behind, to make peace with Stark…

Wonder M: But you can’t.

Goliath: No.

Virtue, Ethan Edwards, should be Wonder Man n°2, and of the Revengers, he’s the most aggressive and revengeful.

Virtue: This is all very interesting, really… The problem is, what are we going to do, Simon? Will this little club give us what we want?

Wonder M: What do you want, Ethan?

Virtue: Revenge.

Wonder M: You’ll get it.

Virtue: It’s a promise?

Wonder M: No killings.

Virtue: WHAT?!

Wonder M: Killing them won’t change things. They need a lesson in humility.

Virtue: My race! My entire race! We suffered at their hands infinite losses…

Wonder M: You feel it on your neck, don’t you? The fear of extinction?

Virtue: Yes! Yes every single day, every single night! I wanted to live as a human, I wanted to live her and forget the past! But I can’t! I want…

Follows a moment of silence-

Virtue: I want to hurt them! If not kill, I want to hurt them!

Wonder M: You will.

Dennis Dumphy, D-Man, he’s not insane. It’s a simple guy who had a difficult life. He wants to do good, but Simon has too much of a strong personality.

WonderM: D-Man…

DMan: Hey, listen Simon… this probably isn’t a good idea…

Virtue: What?!

WonderM: Let him talk.

DMan: The Avengers… they’ve done good things! A lot of good things! You were there with them. This group… we shouldn’t do this!

AntiVenom: Oh, NOW he tells US!

WonderM: You were going to join the Avengers, right Dennis?

DMan: Uh?

WonderM: as a nanny.

A consternated expression appears on D-Man face.


WonderM: I know. The Cages were searching for a nanny and you went there.

AntiVenom: Oh s**t, that’s pathetic…

WonderM: Tell me Dennis, how did it go?

DMan: I… well…

WonderM: They treated you like a joke?

DMan: …no.

WonderM: I can envision them, laughing and chuckling at you, at your home-made costume, at your puny morals and dreams.

DMan: no.

WonderM: I bet they thought, hey let’s call that D-Man guy over here…sure, we’re not going to hire him, but it’s going to be hilarious anyway.

DMan: no…

WonderM: maybe he’ll even start crying, that poor bastard. I’m sure he’ll finally realize, he’s not avenger material. He’s not worth it. He’s not like us.


WonderM: All of them think this of you! All of them just want to laugh at you! They don’t care about what you want, they don’t care about how you can help them. You’re a joke to them. They laugh at you… Steve too… They don’t care about us, the simple ones, the ones that just wants to make the world better. Tell me, Dennis. Will you let them laugh?

DMan: NO.

WonderM: Then we have a deal.

Virtue: What’s our target?

WonderM: We are going at the root, my Revengers. Where all started…

Of course, I jumped Anti-Venom, Century and Devil-Slayer, but a more in-depth conversation with them would take place too. The assault on Avenger’s Mansion starts, and it’s pretty much the same.

Thing: What the hell is…

Virtue: It’s called Revenge.

The battle proceeds as usual, we have a little change in the various dialogues.

Hand: That’s captain Ultra! He’s afraid of fire!

Captain Ultra: That was years ago, you damn bimbo!

Strange: Well, I’m sure you won’t like this anyway…

And with a magic spell he makes Ultra think he’s entirely on fire, like in the actual book. But with a single line of dialogue, you prevent a possible continuity error that fans can harpoon on to get angry at you. D-Man jumps on Jessica Jones and battles with her, throwing her against wall, getting hit as well, but he’s angrier than her. Luke Cage tries to stop him, but Atlas repeat the same catch and throw of the original issue. Thanks to our no-waste policy, we have a couple more of pages left from the beginning. And we will use it to promote my favorites pet-characters! Because that’s what good writers do. Ms. Marvel battles with Wonder Man. It’s not a real fight. She asks him to stop this madness, and of course she holds back from using all her strength.

At this point, Wonder Man stops, grabs his head and starts lamenting, screaming.

WonderM: It’s… it’s in my head… help me! Help me!

Of course! A great hero like Simon could never do such a thing! He’s getting mind controlled! But we forgot that Simon is an actor. As soon as Carol gets closer trying to help, he headbutts her, stunning her.

WonderM: I’m sorry.

He let her body go, and she hits the ground like in the original scene.

Virtue: Aaahh… that was incredibly satisfying.

The Revengers regroup.

Virtue: So, what where’re we going now?

WonderM: Isn’t is obvious?

Final page, identical.

WonderM: Where all ends.

Part 2 Secret Avengers Annual #1

The book opens up as the Avenger Annual, and for the most part it follows the same plot. Another thing that I didn’t like about the resolution was the way Iron Man defeated Wonder Man, trapping him into a gadget created by Hank. You can make the argument that, yes, it is something that Iron Man could do with the right preparation. Problem is, when you read it, it still looks like a crappy deux ex machine that prevents us from watching a damn good final battle. So, instead of having the solution right in his hands, Iron Man and Hank have to work right in front of our eyes to obtain it.

Iron Man says that he can use the traps he created to contain one of his foes, the Living Laser, against Wonder Man. Hank argues that Simon’s energy is different and infinitely more powerful, and if they really want to hold him up, they’ll have to upgrade the confinement chamber Stark plans to use. But they’ll have to be quick, Wonder Man is having his big press meeting. The scenes plays as in the Avenger Annual, but Iron Man isn’t here to confine Wonder Man yet. Thor tries to convince him to desist, but Simon attacks him first and takes him by surprise. Ms. Marvel intercepts him and this time she fights hard. She slams Simon against a building.

Ms. Marvel: Snap out of it!


Ms. Marvel: You’re an Avenger!


Ms. Marvel: This is insane!

PUNCH, Simon bleeds. She stops just for a second.

Ms. Marvel: Don’t you remember? All the battles we fought, all the struggles we survived? You want to throw away all that?! ALL OF THAT?


Ms. Marvel: WHY?! Simon, talk to me!

She almost seems to the point of tears. We look at Wonder Man, and he’s too devastated, on the breaking point. Then his expression becomes violent once more.

WonderM: Get out of my way.

Ms. Marvel: Goddamn you!

She raises her fist to punch him again, but he grabs her wrist right before wildly kicking her in the stomach. Iron Man time! His trap is ready. He only needs to load it… BANG, Wonder Man is already on him, beating the hell out of his armor. Iron Man is thrown all across New York, cracks open up on his armor. It’s a desperate situation, but finally, just second before getting hit one more time, the McCoy-Stark traps works. The issue ends with Simon confined.

Part 3 AREvengers Annual #1

Cover art: a big RE covers the Avengers A. The Revengers are at the ground, defeated, one against the other. But there’s something tragic and heroic about their stance, with sundown in the background.

We open up with Wonder Man getting trapped. As soon as this happens, the Revengers get up in arms ready to fight, with the sole intent of retrieving their leader. They’re transported in the stadium, but Virtue is able to take control of the situation and when the battle starts, the Revengers are fighting back decently, because that’s what a team entirely composed of powerhouses should do. And this is the climax of our Saga. The battle against the Revengers is brutal.

Goliath is able to hit Thor back and send him against the stadium, and the two keep on dueling, almost like his uncle and the fake Thor during Civil War. Devil-Slayer is able to defeat Moon-Knight and the Black Widow, but he ends up in a confrontation with Wolverine who wounds him and force to surrender. Century fights Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, Falcon, Bucky and Beast. The Revenger is able to wound Jessica and Falcon, break Hawkeye’s bow and kicks Bucky in the face, but at the end is overwhelmed by Beast. Atlas takes on Luke Cage and the Thing and the two together are able to hold him up, until Valkyrie and Hank Pym come by, defeating him (remember, Atlas is probably the strongest member right after Wonder Man.) Still tired from the previous battle, Doctor Strange gets hit by Virtue and taken down. The skrull jumps on Spider-Man, beats him, and he’s ready to go for the kill, but moments before he can deliver the finishing blow, Ms. Marvel jumps right into action and takes him on. Easily, she triumphs. Spider-Man, along side Jessica Jones, stops the Anti-Venom

The final confrontation is against Steve Rogers and D-Man, and it’s not really a battle.

DMan: I know the truth! You think I’m a joke…

Steve: Dennis. Whatever Simon said to you…

DMan: I understand now! I understand completely!

Steve: I want to help you Dennis.


Steve: No. I’m your friend.

Dennis jumps on him, ready to deliver a tremendous punch in his face. But he stops, as Steve does nothing to defend himself. D-Man falls on his knees and cries, desperate.

DMan: I didn’t want to!

Steve: It’s ok.

DMan: Forgive me!

Steve goes on his knees as well and embraces him, because Captain America is not only a symbol of power, but of hope and forgiveness as well. The battle took most part of the issue. It’s the big final showdown for God’s sakes. At this point, we have briefly the interrogations.

CaptainUltra: I believe in Simon Williams! You’re the scum, you should be in prison! You damn f**ks!

Atlas: I’m proud of being a Revenger. You just don’t work anymore!

Goliath: Every time I look at you, I see his blood on your hands. It just won’t go away…

Devil-Slayer: Williams showed me a different world. There’s an alternative. The right one. I regret nothing.

Century: He died because of me, but he’s back… and his words, his voice… why don’t you see it? He’s right!

Virtue: This isn’t over. The Revengers, all this… it isn’t over…

Anti-Venom: That Ultron, the Civil War, the Scarlet chick and now Wonder Man… at this point you’ll have to admit… there’s something wrong with all of you…


And then, the ending, Hank talking with Simon, it’s the same. With the exception that I find the character questioning whatever or not he’s real to be boring and tedious, trite and lazy. So, no, Simon has done all this because he believes what he said. The Revengers were a new way, a new look at the world. A world without the Avengers, corrupted by their own power and influence. The mass media talk takes just one page, but we still get all the necessary information: Simon is becoming an internet phenomenon and a symbol of the Avengers possible corruption. We use pages left to take a look at Hank McCoy and Carol Danvers, as they try to comfort each other. You can argue that a betray from Wonder Man would hit these two characters more than any other, and in fact, it does.

And the final page is the same. They heard. Simon smiles and the light engulfs him.

The Revengers Saga: End?


If I was writing: the Suicide Squad

I’d like to point out once more that this is pure fantasy. I perfectly knew that 3/4 of my ideas would probably never past editorial. This, more than ever: I’d turn the Suicide Squad into a Reality Show. While always fun to watch, read and write, the concept of “supervillains working for the government” can be at this point tired and unimaginative. Let’s spin it around more, let’s make it more fun, controversial and offensive.

Supervillains in Television

“Suicide Squad” is the name a big private TV gives to his new prime time television program. Thanks to an accord with the government, they can follow with cameras a team of small-time supervillains who volunteered to work for the White House in a number of different missions in exchange for prison time. They’re blood stream is filled with nanobots that keep them in check and some instance, limit their powers. But of course, missions that the government is willing to show on TV aren’t exactly what a program called “Suicide Squad” is all about. So, the real villains of this piece become the producers, who are willing to do anything for the audience share. Causing violent incidents, endangering the life of innocents, enroll assassins and other supervillains to attack and confront the Squad members while they’re on another mission.

And of course, guest stars. Ever wanted to see Giganta being interviewed by Dr. Phil?


A big problem with gaining new readers is the fact that most people don’t like to jump on a book when, say, 15-20 issues already are out. There’s an easy solution to this. To keep the feel of the book fresh, maintain constant jumping on points for new readers and avoid renumbering and constant relaunches, instead of a long running series based around the same group of characters I’d subdivide the book in seasons.

24 issues/2 years of stories=a season. Fast paced 3-4 issue story arcs revolving around a cast of 6 characters. After that, we introduce the new cast and from there, a new season. Just like a reality TV, the characters change as the show progresses, and we have character work mostly during the missions. Like a reality show, “fillers” are removed. What we see is only what the audience wants to see: action and character drama. Also, we dwell deeper in the characters relationships through a confessional in which they speak to a “camera”. Of course, I hate “talking heads” issues like any other reader, so this last narrative device is to be use with judgment and only with specific characters.

Superhero of the Month & Returns

More or less with each mission, rotating superheroes join the team. They’re chosen by the government to keep on check the villains, and they offer humorous batter with them. Also, a new season doesn’t exactly mean a complete reboot of the show. “Fan favorite” the most important characters of previous seasons, come back from time to time in the book. Superheroes play an important role in the story. The Justice Leagues finds this program unacceptable and find themselves in conflict with the Suicide Squad while trying to shut it down. A controversy arise, whatever of not the Leaguers are just afraid of losing fans.

General Feel

Take John Zucker, add a sprinkle of John Waters, and three tons of Michael Bay. When you hear a title like “Suicide Squad” you imagine something ultraviolent and insane and that’s what I’m looking after. Demented villains, absurd characters, situation at the limits of impossible, an highly satirical tone, huge use of Black Humor, violence so exasperated that becomes laughable. This book isn’t realistic and shouldn’t be realistic. It’s not a “What if in real life, supervillains took part in reality shows?” No! This is comic book, this is fiction, this concept is absurd and nobody in their right minds would accept armed supervillains being put on national TV. That is the entire point: a book merciless, pushed to the limit, completely insane and violent to the point of parody.

First Season Set Up

The first episode of the show starts live, from Hollywood, where the cast is finally presented to America. Too bad one of the group, Metallo, has found a way to override the system of the nanobots in his body, freeing himself from their control. He breaks havoc in Los Angeles and enters a military facility, entering in posses of a nuclear bomb and creating an army of cybernetic minions using scrap tech and computers. Despite requests from the government to shut down the program, the episode keeps going as the rest of the teams saves the day.

Other Major Story Arcs

Season Two: On Hiatus & The Homicide Squad

While the show starts doing great on prime television, something darker happens on the internet and illegal pirated networks: Homicide Squad. Six more villains are put together and unleashed in the street of a city to cause panic and devastation. They film their murderous spree live, via web cam, and get hundreds of crazy followers all over the world that starts rampaging and imitate their behaviors, posting on twitter youtube and facebook their madness. Of course, the Suicide Squad is accused of spawning all this trouble. This starts an arc named On Hiatus. The show is removed from television and the squad members are sent once more back to prison. Soon, they plan a breakout, they escape and kidnap a cameraman of the show. They want to find the Homicide Squad and stop them while regaining their loyal fanbase… what they don’t know is that behind this new group of killers there’s a centennial secret organization, nemesis of the League of Assassins. They were supposed to be all dead, but now they came back…

Season Three: Death to Hollywood

At the start of season three, the concepts starts getting tired, the characters are mostly unappealing, and the public grows more and more uninterested. The producers come up with a brilliant plan: a shock episode in which all the members get brutally killed and replaced by more hip supervillains. But the S3 team discovers the plot and at the moment of confronting the replacements, they fake their deaths. After getting rid of the nanobots, they launch themselves in a crusade against Hollywood and the network, assaulting full force all the major studios, mauling their way through actors, directors and celebrities, interrupting the shooting of movies and TV programs.They come with a final confrontation with the second team and…

Season One

Deadshot as the team leader. Giganta, Clock King, Silver Swan, Plastique, Trickster

Season notes: C.King is treated like the running joke of the group. It doesn’t help that he’s stuck with his “Batman: the Brave and the Bold” costume. Deadshot considers the entire idea stupid and inane, yet he accepts the role of the leader. Giganta fights with him over it. Trickster gets in the cast after Metallo psycho plan fails. Dr. Phil tries to analyze the team members. It doesn’t end well (for him).

Season Two

Cluemaster, leader. Folded-Man, Encantadora, Riot, Killer Frost, Rainbow Archer

Season notes: Encantadora wasn’t a prisoner, she joined the show voluntarily to become famous. She boast of having seduced Superman. Heavy emphasis is put on Cluemaster relationship with Stephanie Brown. R.Archer is forced by the studio to adopt a stereotypical “gay” persona. Killer Frost is promised royalties for every “ice” related pun she can make. One of the team members dies at the hands of the Homicide Squad.

Season Three

Team 1 the Original group: Captain Boomerang, leader. Brick, Dust-Devil, Voltaic, Heatstroke, Calendar Man

Team 2 the hip, cooler and skimpier group: Red Hood, leader, Double Down, Dr. Phosphorus, Harley Quinn, Menagerie, White Rabbit.

Season notes: Calendar Man it’s in his original costume. That’s because being the worst villain of all times is better than being a Hannibal Lecter rip-off. Captain Boomerang kills George Lucas. He’s hardly the only one that gets it.

The Homicide Squad

Doctor Trap, leader. Onomatopoeia, Zeiss, Merlyn, Chiller, Manchester Black

Notes: Main villains of Season Two and a recurring foe in Season Three with an altered line-up. Everything that Kevin Smith as wrote about Onomatopoeia after his first appearence his ignored, because that's god will.

And that’s pretty much it. Next time: the reconstruction of Captain America (but mostly his villains).

PS: If somebody has some suggestion or wants to hear my though on some particular title, they’re free to ask for it. It always help think about stuff that I don’t normally look at.

I’m the mighty Clock King! KNEEL BEFORE MEEEEEE!!!

Start the Conversation

If I was writing: the X-Men

Another exercise in creativity. Adjectiveless

X-Men that is.

My concept from the team comes from a question: what do the X-Men represent? They’re the outcasts, the one that want to make the world a better place, the ones that want to find a way for humans and mutants to live in peace, without prejudices and hatred. But something like that can’t be obtained by simply defending mutants. It’s important to form a dialogue with the human, a relationship. Forming the team my first thought was how human’s media would react to it, how the world population would have seen it. What the X-Men always tried to accomplish was protect mutants from a world that fears them, but prejudice can be eradicated only if you work on the entirety of the world and not only a small ethnic group. A team of X-Men must deal with mutant-human relationships and actively work to make the Planet a better place to live in.

The Major Players

Hope Summers: the true leader of this incarnation of the group and the main protagonist. The mutant messiah should have more mass media exposure in the Marvel Universe. While still working with her own team, the five lights, trying to find newly activated mutants, she starts another group of X-Men to persecute her second mission, that is be the messiah, create a world of peace. She has to show to the planet that the saviors of mutants can also be the savior of all humanity (follows in Hope the Icon).

Magneto: field leader, always on the front line. He symbolizes redemption: one of the world former greatest villains, now working for the benefit of humankind. It sends a powerful message: the mutants while they could cause problems, they’re still ready to atone for them. He has the experience, the powers and the charisma to make a group work.

Tom Skylark & Rover: from Grant Morrison’s Here Comes Tomorrow. In Morrison final team of X-Men everyone has a place: mutants, humans, cyborgs. Having a team exclusively composed of mutants sends to the general public the wrong message: division, inequality, fear of the strange. Seeing a normal human with no actual superpowers actively working with the X-Men helps breaking barriers of intolerance. Rover the Sentinel is another symbol of hope for the mutants, a weapon created by fear to destroy them turned into a tool of justice. Skylark is brash, caustic, from a dark future that made him hard and violent.

James Rhodes as the War Machine: with the Iron Man 2.0 suit but his original name, Rhodes has a similar role to Skylark, as the human member. But he’s also a more “famous” a veteran hero coming from teams like the Avengers. Is a publicity stunt for the world, a big name joining the mutant cause. Also, you always see Avengers stealing X-Men, so a little pay-off should be granted.

Gambit: an important mutant that I desire to use to upgrade his powers and bring back some forgotten parts of his history (explained better soon). Subsequent members of this team would include Northstar, Jubilee, Pixie, Magma, Polaris, Colossus, Dazzler, and Dust. The overall cast should be fluid, and I tend to focus on the female members since superhero teams usually a more male based core.

Back to Morrison and Austen

Is my desire to reintroduce concepts from Grant Morrison’s New X-Men. The already mentioned Tom Skylark is the most important example, but two others being far more important: Sublime and the Kick.(NOTE: The Sublime Corporation has been reintroduced recently in the X-Men during Fraction tenure, but I didn’t follow it. While the group seems to still working, the actual entity is nowhere to be seen.)

*Sublime is a sentient bacteria that can infect and type of being except for Mutants, that are the only race that can resist his influence. He created Kick, a concentrated version of himself sold as a “drug for mutants” that enhances their powers but only ends up making them prey for the bacteria. The existence of a Mutant Messiah forces me to put her against one mutantkind greatest enemy, a force of nature that you can’t reason with and only wants being on top of the food chain and control every living thing, and exterminate what little is left of his natural enemy.

Kick starts spreading again, thanks to South-American drug cartels who supplied by a mysterious source starts to distribute it again, for free, but to the “human” consumers. On humans, Kick has a weird effect. While they retain parts of their personality, the addicted to the drug start to form a hive-mind that follows Sublime will, turning them into an army of sleeper agents. Better yet, Mutants discovered that Kick was a Sublime’s compound only in the faraway future. Nobody in the X-Men yet realizes the truth behind the drug and the real devastation it can bring.

But Morrison’s is not the only one I would take leads from. On no, Chuck Austen’s work is a gold mine. Yes I went there, sue me! I love those stories from a pure “so bad is good” point of view. Chuck Austen’s run ended with a few cliffhanger that have been pretty much completely ignored from following writers (“thank God” I’m sure some of you are saying). But some the idea and characters he introduced have the potential to become great if used in the right way. I concentrate on three:

*Gambit’s Secondary Mutation: at the beginning of X-Men #163, a blind Gambit looks at one of his cards and sees the cliffhanger from issue #162. From there, for a brief period of time, the Cajun mutant had the power to see images of the future in his cards. That’s a great idea, why it hasn’t stick? Rather than actual photos from the future, I’d make Gambit able to see objects, drawings, symbols, all things that must be interpreted, visions, cryptic imagery, needed to build up mystery and suspects. Gambit would train himself in bringing back this ability and with the help of Hope powers use it at his full potential.

*Azazel: X-Men - First Class showed that this character can be used for good. Last time we saw him he was laughing while getting sucked in a teleportation vortex created by Abyss powers, and we never saw him again. To me, he spent years plotting his return, trapped into another dimension, patiently waiting the time to extract revenge while forming a new army and a new set of crazy satanic followers on Earth. Even more so than Sublime, Azazel makes for a great counterpoint to Hope. She’s the Messiah while he’s the mutant Devil, the savior against the damned in an epic confrontation.

*Carter Ghazikhanian: last issue of Chuck Austen’s X-Men ended in a cliffhanger never explained and never brought back since 2005. The young psychic kid Carter driving off the Mansion with his mother, talking with a invisible being while smiling like a child molester. That’s so good! A big unutilized villain right there! Austen’s original idea was to make the spirit talking with him Cassandra Nova, but that wouldn’t work now of course. I would make Carter reappear, as an Omega-level mutant, aged far more than he actually should (now in his mid 20), his mother mysteriously disappeared. The spirit who talks with him is maybe a dark and powerful entity, maybe only his own imagination, maybe another personality who managed to obtain a true spiritual form. Either way, he’s now completely insane. He thinks he should be the true savior of the mutant world thanks for superior psychic powers, and since Hope arrival he spent years training with his powers, to upgrade them. He walked Earth, spending time slaughtering both lesser mutants as well as human-supremacists. He also developed the ability to hide himself from Cerebra and other telepath, using his powers to become an invisible entity, able to move from place to place without being detected.

But building up villains is not enough: you need a hero stronger than ever.

Hope the Icon

During his run, Morrison turned Magneto in a cultural phenomenon, a figure on par with Che Guevara. The same I want to do with Hope, as a positive symbol, a pop culture icon complete with a t-shirt that starts spreading through the USA and then the world. To make her mission know, Hope doesn’t put on a mask, a secret identity, nor she refuses questions and avoids confrontations: she put herself under the spotlight, going to talk-shows, making public statements at rallies. She doesn’t save the world while staying quiet in the shadow, she lets the people know what she have done together with her team, using every single media, from television to the internet. She sparks controversy every time she can, and directly challenges the status-quo, the authorities and even the other superheroes, entering in conflict with the Avengers.

Magneto was right” is the phrase created by Morrison. “I have Hope” is the one of this story.

This obviously, can also work at her disadvantage as Hope is not perfect. She can make errors, she can say stupid things, something that the press and the governments would brutally use against her, in a plan to take her out. Also a more extremist part of Hope’s followers distorts her ideals of world peace, becoming a violent anarchic group that fights the institutions while shouting her name, with kidnappings and terrorist attacks that she and her team have to deal with. Hope gets tired and frustrated about the accumulating pressure and the obstacles, becoming less patient and focused, starting to doubt herself and her actual role. If only there was something that could help her regain strength, enhance her powers, something that could alleviate the pain and make things easier…

Villains: less Mutants, more worldwide threats

Joss Whedon was closing his first issue of Astonishing X-Men with these words:

Time to make nice with the public, eh, Summers?” “We have to do more than that, Logan.We have to astonish them.”

The idea was that to convince the public that the mutants weren’t a threat and actually show the people of the world what a group of superheroic homo superiors could have done for them…Well, while the book was very good, this idea never amount to anything. The X-Men had done nothing but fight aliens (off world mind you), themselves and the psychotic AI of their own danger room. They haven’t confronted anything that the general public could really see or care about, and that’s what must change. The X-Men must fight to make the world better in plain sight, and this starts from a writer point of view by reducing the actual number of mutant villains they have to confront.

No matter what the X-Men do, they’ll never surpass the stigma of monsters if what they’re fighting is another insane member of their own race. There’s always Uncanny X-Men to put them against other mutants, and it helps give each book is own different voice.

Under me, Hope’s X-Men will be fighting Earth’s enemies, not Mutant’s enemies. Terrorist organizations, HYDRA and AIM, weapon dealers, drug cartels, all of them together with more superheroic foes that threaten cities and civilians, like monsters, giant robots, dinosaurs,super-powered rogues. Not only that, I see this team in an Authority type of scenario, acting like a global police to help all the oppressed, stopping genocides, ethnic policies, overthrowing dictatorships, trying to morph the world in a true positive Utopia, but without being fascistic about it. Of course, while the everyday people will start to grow attached to this group, politicians and leaders will start to fear them, spreading more hate that the group will have to deal with.

Plus, a constant effort to help populations in need, hit by natural catastrophes. With powers like his, Magneto should be 7 days a week clearing rumbles from disasters zones just to repay the amount of damage he did in the past.

I would only use five villains from the X-Men rogue gallery: Carter, Azazel, Sublime and...

Magneto The Second

A character that pretty much is the version of Erik you get when either Morrison or Mark Millar is writing him, a psychopathic power-hungry racist, a counterpart for the original character new heroism. He’s everything Magneto was on steroid, every single defect and fault turned up by eleven. At the same time it lacks the charisma of the original, being an obnoxious, paranoid, arrogant fool that underestimates every single opponent he faces, constantly talking trash and insulting his enemies, an immature jerk that makes bad jokes and things of himself as the greatest bad guy in history, a parody of big schemers and mary-suish baddies in general, those kind of villains that their own creators hype as the next best thing but lack anything that can make them truly memorable.

A deconstruction of Erik past villainy, the Second is an amoral big bully that forces the master of magnetism to face his own faults and ways, like if all his crimes took a physical form just to taunt him.


The super-sentinel survived his destruction at the end of Second Coming by transferring his memory into a backup body. Problem is, during their confrontation, Hope released such an extraordinaire amount of energy that Bastion almost didn’t make it, loosing on the translocation most of his raw power. He had to rebuild himself to scratch, but that wasn’t the worst part: during their battle Hope Summers made him first prove hate, then pleasure, and then fear. While he was always able to prove some sort of emotions, the confrontation with the messiah was the first instance in his life in which he was afraid.

To metabolize this feelings and stop being scared of Hope powers, Bastion reprogrammed himself in a way that allows him to prove deeper emotions on a human-level. With this new program he’s becomes less of sentinel in human body and more a human with the powers of a sentinel, something that allows him to grow out of his original agenda and change his targets. Instead of the extermination of the mutant race, his primary target becomes Hope, as he develops an unhealthy obsession with her. Rather than just destroy her, he wants to make her prove the same fear she made him feel during his “almost-death”. With this, the character becomes a little more complex, an enemy more personal to Hope. Of villains whose only purpose is shouting “Mutants sucks-kill them all” the X-Men will never ran out. I think we can leave Bastion a little room to grow out of the cliché.

First Arc Set-Up

Hope and her team are informed that a new mutant activated his powers and they take off, but he’s no new mutant. He’s Carter Ghazikhanian, who used his powers to make himself visible again to the other mutants to lure the Messiah in trap. He manages to kidnap Hope and plans to kill her in public and proclaim himself New Savior of the mutant race.

In the meantime, at Utopia, Skylark appears from the future with a big message: If not stopped, a mysterious mutant will conquer the world and billions of people will die during his takeover. Magneto forms a first team to stop this situation from getting any worse, convinced that Carter is the mutant in question.

By the end of the first arc, the team shifts members. Hope is the one coming up with the idea of a group focused on saving all the world, and not just mutants. They start recruit people when arc two kicks in.

Concluding Ideas:

Bishop Return and Redemption

I’ve seen a lot of people hating Hope Summers. The problem doesn’t seem to come from the character itself, but to the changes it brought to other loved character, name in question, Bishop. How to blame them? The guy was a hero, and he turned into bloodthirsty infant-killer with no rhyme or reason just for a cheap plot-twist and so that Messiah Complex could have another villain. God knows, Mister Sinister, the Marauders, the Purifiers, Lady Deathstrike, the Reavers and the Predator X weren’t enough!

The character was a great piece of history of the X-Men he deserves a better treatment.

With Skylark arrival in the story yet another different post-apocalyptic future is created, something that introduces a more expanded version of the timeline. Nothing is really written in the course of history, and every single action cause something different. There’s always an alternative, millions of possible futures, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Bishop manages to come back to our present time, and he soon realizes that his killing mission is futile and that is moment of insanity led him to lose everything he build up in the present. In the end, every single world has his own course, and the presence of Hope Summers doesn’t necessarily means that the world is doomed to become the one he grew up into. He actually saves her life and becomes another guardian angel, another father looking after her from the distance, as a way to atone for the harm he brought to her and to try to get reaccepted in the X-Men world.

And that’s it.

Create a team of X-Men made from mutants and humans alike, that works on global scale to help the all of humanity and turn Hope into a central piece of her world.

Let’s just hope that X-Men vs. Avengers writers don’t turn the poor girl evil or kill her off just so they can justify their “big event”. That would be as cheap as turning Bishop into a maniac.

Next week, I’ll jump to DC: Suicide Squad.


If I was writing: X-23

An exercise in creativity, I think I’ll do this periodically, everyTuesday, let’s hope no delays.

In points, I’ll explain the angle that I would take while writing a certain character or group, trying to be as innovative as possible, filling holes, or focusing on traits that I think have always been overlooked.

So, X-23, Laura Kinney. Her ongoing title by Marjorie Liu practically cancelled, she’s now part of Avengers Academy. I think that’s an error, she a girl full of potential to hold her own title. But what do I know, if a comic doesn’t sell I guess you have to kill it

off. It’s just nice that she doesn’t fall right into limbo.

What I would focus on while writing her? Laura sexuality.

Sexual Confusion

Laura is a clone of Wolverine, yet she’s female. I never saw developed all the juicy drama that this particular situation can provide. Gender and sexual confusion: Laura starts to prove attraction for a woman. This would be “simple” enough if it didn’t come up with a question: is she really attracted or are her emotions just a result of Wolverine animalistic preference, latent in her genes? It’s a different take on the “clone blues”: while a character like Superboy would be afraid that he will turn evil since he’s also a Lex Luthor clone, Laura is afraid of not being able to express herself and her own sexuality since she’s clone a walking hairy testosterone factory.This theme works well with the age group of Laura, teenagers, hormones flying… something as simple as a crush becomes a tragedy, and normal relationships with the likes of Hellion starts to become even more difficult that should already be. It function also as a "deconstruction" of what many people call an hateful stereotype: the strong woman character that is just a male character with boobs attached to him In her quest for individuality, X-23 tries to separate herself from the Wolverine's shadow, becoming her own and not "the female clone".

To this, I’d add a platonic and borderline obsessive relationship with both Wolverine and Daken. She feels truly connected with only this two mans, and it’s prevalently a genetic factor that pushes her in their direction. The same can be said for both of them. All this causes general friction and frustration, in which is added the additional drama of being almost an incestuous game. This interplay of kinfolk and romanticism allows a deep character study of a “family” pushed to the limits, extreme interactions that make for compelling, but at the same time, disturbing drama.

Pain, Self-destruction and New powers

We saw Laura cutting herself numerous times. Now, self-harm is a big issue, I’m not trying to minimize it, but I’ve never actually felt investments or true emotions in this act. The main problem being the nature of Laura powers. I perfectly know that self-harm is just the external manifestation of deep psychological problem, depression and anxiety, but when you cut yourself, you body becomes embodiment of this internal pain. Laura has superlative healing factor that renders meaningless every kind of wound on her body. Self-harm loses all his impact and becomes pointless from a narrative point of view.

I would take this character trait and expand it in another dimension: a more positive use of her powers and a deeper non-exploitive analysis on her sexuality. I’m talking about an evolution from a fear of pain and loss that brings X-23 researching self-ham, to a more open look on the subject, with the character accepting the danger and peril of her situation and becoming attracted to it. A “soft-masochism” for lack of better terms, an attraction to danger and pain that doesn’t “degenerates” in sadomasochistic tendencies, but in a more personalized way of live her life.

Battles become something to look for, as a method to be truly herself. This evolution from searching the pain to suffer, to searching pain for pleasure, allows her to psychologically trigger a secondary mutation in her body. I’d turn X-23 in a walking morphine: she can absorbs physical pain from the others and transfer it in her body. She starts to suffer for the others, she makes the wounded feel better, and she can make a difference without killing people. She starts to live pain with a positive attitude, knowing that the same pain she proves is the one that another being isn’t suffering.

Supporting Cast

To counterbalance Laura new characterization of sexual confusion and hunger for danger, you need a cast of individual that are as stable as possible. Her cousin Megan Kinney, the only part of her family that is claw wielding, gut ripping mutant, is the shoulder were she can rest.

*Hellion the “will they be together” guy, that finds a new wall when Laura starts questioning whatever she actually thinks with Wolverine brain or not. Even with losing his hands, he gets over it, growing side by side with Laura, like she learns to metabolize pain, he understands how to have a more positive outlook on life.

*Agent Morales, a good old friend,

the third piece in a bizarre love triangle between Laura and Hellion.

The Rogues Gallery

To be really big, a character needs a rogue gallery to build stories around her. Let’s reintroduce Penance and make him an actual threat! A new identity, a new character, same costume with internal needles: a villain that obtains his superpowers under extensive amounts of pain, a symbolic opponent for Laura. While she refuses pain and suffers from it, Penance2 accepts pain, embraces it, turning it into the power that fuels him.

The encounters with Daken become more frequent and more violent. While not a proper villain, the guy still has a grudge against his father, and Laura, being the clone, is a good surrogate target. He just wants to mess with her, and there’s a big deal of tension between the two. And of course what about poor naive Hellion? What if Daken tries to seduce him just so that he can hurt Laura? That’s the weapon that sets this boy apart from any other villain, and should be used profoundly.

Wolverine has Sabretooth, Captain America has Red Skull, Laura needs a nemesis: Kimura is the best choice. In order to defeat and capture X-23, she undergoes constant “upgrades” to make herself more and more lethal each time. But with these same upgrades, she loses what little humanity she has left. She becomes a tragic figure, another image of Laura psyche, another woman who can’t recognize her own body anymore and loses her individuality. With her there’s the entire Facility, their agents, and maybe another brother? What if Wolverine was clone more than once?

General Feel

Contrast and confrontation is the entire concept, the idea that would drive my take on the character. And the book must be the same way. The action scenes and the quiet moments must be almost jarring in their difference; the book must have a schizophrenic feel to it. Villains like Daken and Kimura allows for action sequences that are a pure bloodbath, and the healing powers of X-23 let free reign on the amount of damage she can endure. At the same time, to counterbalance, character building moments, intimate scenes are all slow and sweet, almost dream like.

Some Set-Ups

X-23 abandons both the Avengers and the X-Men, feeling that in either case she’s being “forced” to be someone, instead of choosing of her own will who she is. She’s able to come in contact with her cousin Megan and her new goal is to build for herself a normal life. Normal as in, no heroism, no extraordinaire feat, no supervillains, no nothing, just a life. Hellion is able to find her, as he wants to be part of this life too. He’s ready to leave the X-Men to stay with her. They spend a few days together, the three of them in the same house, Laura is thinking about finding a job and a true home that she can call her own. But tragedy soon strikes, as Laura discovers that her dear friend Alisande Morales has fallen in the hands of Kimura and the Facility. First arc deals with the rescue and the reintroduction of all the major players.

From there, the book keeps going with fast paced 3-4 issues story arcs, that focus on Laura and her group on the run, trying to find a place to stay in peace, without the danger of the facility coming for them.

Well, that’s it for X-23. Next week

I’ll do something of bigger scale: adjectiveless X-Men