Purpose

In the year 284 LC (Lunar Concordance) Valorum Tagar, High Chancellor of the Lunar Republic is assassinated on the order of Tenabrae Karn, supreme ruler of the Eternal Empire of the Shadow (EES). The long simmering political tensions erupt into open war that engulfs the entire solar system. Refugees are forced to return the planet their ancestors were forced to abandon many centuries ago, Earth. Five years on and the Lunar Republic stands on the precipice of defeat.

Desperate, the young Chancellor Danella Tagar authorizes a daring mission: Operation Prodigal. An elite team of pilots will infiltrate the EES and steal the advanced Dark Type prototype. Success could turn the tide of the war where as failure will doom them to certain defeat…

Meanwhile, the infamous pirates, mercenaries, terrorists extraordinaire known as the Marauders steal 6 prototypes from the Olympia-Anu Comglomerate (OAC). AWOL soldier Eddie Badger manages to abscond with one of the units and heads to Earth…

Will Operation Prodigal save the Republic? Can Eddie stay one step ahead of the Marauders.

Follow to find out! Next week on MSG Reta: Hail Mary…

Here I present my offering to the trending gods. Lists get clicks and thus I present you with a complete ranking of every Marvel and DC movie I’ve ever seen, including Black Panther. Now this list is just my opinion…and I know that statement will do absolutely nothing to dissuade any anger over me expressing an opinion that may be contradictory to the denizens of the internet. With that acknowledged I would like to quickly explain the method to my madness.

This list is based on my enjoyment of the films and not their objective quality. Objective quality is a rather strong factor in my enjoyment but it is not the standard at work here. Other factors include: strength of themes, coherent narrative, engaging or relatable characters, story structure, cultural significance, faithfulness to the source material, and general enjoyment to be had. This is not a mathematical formula. Critical ratings (2.5/5 stars, 7/10, etc…) will not be used.

Preface done, let us begin…

1-10. The best of the best.

1.) The Dark Knight

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Some would say this is the cliché choice. I say that clichés exist for a reason. Simply put no other superhero film and very few films have reached the height of Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. Brilliantly realized and gloriously executed, “The Dark Knight” is a tour de force of narrative tension, thematic resonance, and cultural impact. This is the film that showed the world that not only could superhero films be great for what they are but be great films…period.

2.) Logan

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“Logan” is a work of art that could only exist under the circumstances that lead to its creation. This is (arguably) the best embodiment of a character by any actor in this genre, a role Hugh Jackman inhabited for nearly 20 years, a character who helped define the genre, and said actor’s last turn as that iconic character. The film beautifully realizes its farewell to both the actor and character, paying ode to the classic westerns which Wolverine became the modern day embodiment of the archetypal “lone gun slinger” who must ride off into the wilderness after saving the day because he has no place in the society he fights to protect. Tearfully we said goodbye to the best and this was the final chapter worthy of his legend.

3.) The Avengers

Avengers

When it comes to impact there are none who can top “The Avengers”. This movie revolutionized its industry, not just genre, and every film to follow it owes some debt of gratitude to it. “The Avengers” is both the bar and gold standard in which every other superhero film is measured against. It is so because of how brilliantly it validates its own existence. Achieving this milestone forever changed what a superhero film could be by cementing the validity of long form story telling in cinema.

4.) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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If it was not for its titanic impact, “The Avengers” would fall to 5 on this list as “Winter Soldier” and 5 are superior films in every other way. Guiding Marvel Studios into a wildly successful strategy of genre blending, “Winter Soldier” is a taught, impactful, and relevant political thriller that dares to ask some difficult questions of its audience and what they are and are not willing to lose to maintain the world as they know it. Big ideas for a film of genuine significance.

5.) Captain America: Civil War

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When Marvel has something to say they like us to hear it from the mouth of Steve Rogers. The payoff of stage 2, “Civil War” brings all of our Avengers’ character development to a head. In unexpected, but true to their own personal arcs, ways our heroes find themselves at odds with one another. It’s a glorious spectacle and heartbreaking tragedy as these teammates rip themselves apart while both sides earnestly fail to find the right answer to a difficult question.

6.) Superman (78)

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Speaking of debts of gratitude…This is the grand daddy of the genre. No way around it, “Superman” is the proof of concept for every superhero film to follow it. Christopher Reeve so perfectly embodied the character and all he stood for that it effectively made it impossible to make a Superman movie w/o him. Combine this with John Williams’ iconic score, the best in the genre, and there is something not short of magic at work in this film. Sure its simplicity may seem quaint to modern eyes but it is precisely that simplicity that allows it to endure across time.

7.) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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All prior entries, even if disagreed with, probably were not considered a surprise for their placement. This one might be. Vol. 2 proved that there was a heart and mind behind its predecessor’s soul. Genuinely funny and emotional at the same time, we laugh and cry with our heroes as James Gunn’s masterful theming and character development guide us through the complicated ordeal that is coming to terms with your own family.
“He may have been your father but he wasn’t your daddy”, is but one of a dozen beautifully realized moments of humanity to be found in this modern classic.

8.) Iron Man

Iron Man

Plain and simple, there would be no MCU without “Iron Man”. With how much of a juggernaut Marvel now is in Hollywood it is easy to forget just how risky this film was. A disgraced actor leading a $100,000,000+ budgeted blockbuster based on what the public considered a C list superhero…Yet overnight Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. skyrocketed to be the top of the A list. Our third and final contender for the title of “best embodiment of a character” got backed by a near perfect character study script. All that holds this film back is a lackluster third act and subpar villain.

9.) Wonder Woman

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I feel like my blurb on the previous entry could be copied and pasted with a few key word changes and perfectly explain my feelings on this film. We have another stellar performance that fantastically realizes the character while being backed up by a near perfect script for a character study. Now unlike “Iron Man”, “Wonder Woman” saved the DCEU as opposed to launching it. She was the Hail Mary thrown up by Warner Bros. on 4th down and she came down as a miracle. All that holds this film back…just like “Iron Man”…is a muddled third act and big dumb villain (who is also a large grey purveyor of war).

10.) Spider-Man 2

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It should be noted that this film’s high ranking is a true testament to its quality, given that I am not a fan of the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. The original was a marvel (pun unavoidable) when we had little to compare it to (more on that MUCH later). Its dated effects and tropes are an odd testament to just how good the story telling and characters are in this film. More than being everything you could reasonably expect from a superhero film the time, “Spider-Man 2” is everything one of these films could be at its time. Despite the hokiness of the direction and corny moments in the story this is still a story of fully realized potential and that must be applauded.

11-20 The greats who only aren’t higher because others were greater.

11.) X-Men: Day of Future Past

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“Days of Future Past” is everything right about Fox’s X-Men franchise: excellent comic story adapted well, great performances, engaging narrative, grounded direction, with resonant and relevant political overtones. The only real negatives to this movie are some minor plot inconsistencies and a few wayward story threads. In the scheme of movie sins that is as minor as it gets. Truly this film is not higher on the list only because others were better.

12.) Batman Begins

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This is how you do an origin story and resurrect a franchise. After the atrocity that was “Batman & Robin” (more on that MUCH MUCH later) that IP that was Batman was both a joke and a hazard. So when Christopher Nolan wanted to tell a “real” superhero story it was a tall task to meet but meet it he did. This is what made Batman the most serious and dramatic superhero in popular culture. By staying true to the essence of the characters and story while deftly adapting them for a realistic modern context, Nolan laid the ground work that would elevate the entire genre to new artistic heights and critical acclaim.

13.) Black Panther

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The most recent entry so its position may be subject to fluctuation. As it stands, “Black Panther” is a better version of “The Dark Knight Rises” (more on that soon).  An excellent cast portrays a good story that is told very well. The “Once and Future King” style story and the Afro-futuristic setting serves as fertile ground for the narrative to explore the deeper meaning behind the tights and crown. However the true triumph of the movie is the villain, Eric Kilmonger. Best in the MCU and second only to Heath Ledger’s Joker, Kilmonger is truly formidable while being sympathetic. Indeed he is the hero of his own story and imparts a difficult wisdom to our hero so powerful that it forces T’Challa to, at least in part, accept it.

14.) Deadpool

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Who better to follow the King than the Court Jester? Like “Spider-Man 2”, “Deadpool” is fully realized potential. Like “Logan”, it could only exist thanks to the circumstances that preceded it. Like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”, it shows us beautiful human endurance through awful trauma. So why is it lower then all of them?
Because the thematic weight gets spread thin over too much ground. It’s funny as hell though.

15.) Guardians of the Galaxy

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If any film encapsulates the soul of the MCU it is “The Guardians of the Galaxy”. A fun, action filled romp across wondrous worlds with plenty of clever humor and just enough heavy shit for dramatic resonance. This was also another big bet that’s easy to take for granted in hindsight. With excellent direction and a now iconic sound track that is the envy of Hollywood, “Guardians” greatest strength is its soul that paves the way for the weird yet thoughtful limits of its universe.

16.) Doctor Strange

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Marvel returns to its wheelhouse to bring you another great performance backed by an excellent character study. Also like “Iron Man” another C-list hero in the public perception gets catapulted to stardom. In addition to examining its hero “Doctor Strange” blows the doors wide open for nothing short of cosmic possibilities in its universe…and it’s wildly inventive and fun.

17.) Avengers: Age of Ultron

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This movie is underrated and it’s mostly due to the audience’s expectation. We expected this to be the payoff to Stage 2 when in reality it was the final most critical building block. The Avengers take actions that will inevitably put them on a collision course with one another and events are set into motion that will have drastic and lasting impacts on their world. Ultron is everything you could ask a villain to be…which may have been the fault in that star…and has there ever been such a radical degree of character development between movies than for “working dad” Hawkeye?

18.) X-Men: First Classx-men-first-class-cast

This is what happens when you take a franchise back to its roots and you do it right. Surprisingly faithful to the old comics while being a very believable starting point for the future versions of these characters that we already know. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender own the young versions of these iconic frenemies. Fassbender is particularly compelling as the tragic hero falling into villainy. All around excellent choices made for every phase of production down to this feeling like a genuine 1960s setting.

19.) X2: X-Men United

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For its time this was as good as the genre could be. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier, and Ian McKellen’s Magneto all build off of their phenomenal turns as these characters. The film opens incredibly strong with the Nightcrawler scene that sets the plot in motion while introducing us to a very well utilized fan favorite character. A common criticism of the franchise as a whole is that, “it’s supposed to me an X-Men movie not a Wolverine movie”, but it’s hard to argue against a performance that lends so much to the story. This film is as good as it could be…for its time. Time does not favor this installment as it becomes more and more dated with each passing year. The failure of its sequel only makes the promise of the Phoenix that much more painful in hindsight.

20.) The Dark Knight Rises

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Every film in this section has been a very good film that is only not higher because others were better. This film should have been better and unlike “Ultron” that failing is not attributable to the audience’s expectations. Christopher Nolan tells an excellent story with a stellar cast adequately, and with the standard he set in “The Dark Knight” adequate is not up to par. Tom Hardy turned Bane into a household name, Anne Hathaway turns in the most faithful portrayal of Catwoman, while Bale, Kane, Oldman, and Freeman continue with their stellar work with their characters…but Cotilliard, who is perfectly cast btw, is criminally underutilized as the logic of the story and clarity of the themeing takes a back seat to dramatic revelation theater. The harshness of my critique should not obfuscate “The Dark Knight Rises” ranking on this list as it is a very good film, but it is a very good film that should’ve been great.

21-30 The good that suffer from major flaws.

21.) The Wolverine

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Coming off of the truly horrendous “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (you know where to find it) where Jackman’s Logan was one of two positives in a sea of terrible, Fox couldn’t afford to mess around. So they pulled out Frank Miller’s seminal run that took Wolverine to Japan and it paid off…mostly, until the third act. What was otherwise an interesting and compelling chapter of the titular hero reconciling his tragic life by reexamining his storied past gets marred by a big dumb action set piece. The character from Logan’s past reveals himself to be a mustache twirling villain and the PG-13 editing severely undercuts the tension in the fights. Despite these flaws “The Wolverine” is a mostly compelling look into the past life of one the great heroes.

22.) Blade

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This is a very silly and yet dark movie that is so unabashedly “itself” that it is hard not to look past its many flaws. Wesley Snipes is a damn cool Blade who is criminally underappreciated in the pantheon of superhero performances. The story is about as simple and straight forward as it can be but as a result it gets set in motion very quickly and never loses steam. The unabashed tone lends itself to some pretty iconic scenes. The villain is somehow bad yet perfect for his role in this story and the film has the wisdom to forgo a forced romance between its leads. You could pick this movie to death  but, “some mother f***ers are always trying to ice skate uphill”.

23.) Captain America: The First Avenger

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Coming off “Iron Man” and building towards “The Avengers” left Marvel a lot of freedom to do whatever they wanted with the publically perceived C-list heroes. Captain America was the one in that group that pop culture cared about prior to the MCU. With “First Avenger” they found the perfect way to incorporate the hokiness of the old comics into Marvel’s first foray into heart. A great performance in a good origin story that carries it through its sillier moments, while laying the foundation for what will become enthralling, heartbreaking, and glorious.

24.) X-Men

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It’s all too easy to equate “the fifth best” with “bad” but that doesn’t do justice to Brian Singer’s “X-Men”. Back in a time when superhero films were for kids and only kids, “X-Men” dared to attach some significance to its story and, as much as any uneasy studio would allow, remain faithful to the core concept of the source material. I’ve mentioned them previously so I’ll make this quick…Jackman, Stewart, and McKellen made this franchise. What immediately set this film above audience expectations was to dive in head first to the villain’s backstory as a Holocaust survivor and how that informs his motivations.

25.) Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Once you get past the fanfare of Marvel’s favorite son “coming home”, you are left with a fun but largely inconsequential movie. This is an extremely well made movie with minimal faults but little more than par for the MCU’s course. Tom Holland is a good choice to play the part and I’m sure he’ll develop it quite nicely over his tenure as the web slinger. He’s been surrounded by a fun cast of supporting characters and has a high ceiling for future installments. As it stands, all that elevates this movie this high is its villain. Michael Keaton’s Vulture is easily the third best villain in the MCU as a working class man pushed into a corner he got all too comfortable in.

26.) Ant-Man

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“Ant-Man” is some delightful ridiculousness with more than enough heart to make it more than comic fluff. Yes, the villain is one of the guys who gives MCU villains a bad name. Yes, it’s rather forgettable (I kept forgetting its existence as I made this list). Yes, it is utterly ludicrous…but it’s also Ant-Man. They fact that I was grinning from ear to ear for the entire movie, that I actually gave a damn about Paul Rudd being able to see his little girl again, or that I audibly cried out “NO!” when Antony died is a minor miracle worthy of due respect.

27.) Thor Ragnarok

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As you can tell from the poster, the art direction is nothing short of sublime. If an 80s Metal album cover was a movie it would be this movie. For an idea that sounds that awesome how can it be ranked so low? Well like most acid trips “Thor Ragnarok” is a psychedelic thrill ride that wastes potential. If this was just Thor and Hulk get stuck on an alien world and have to “Gladiator” their way off of it then this would be a superb buddy action-comedy. Unfortunately it deigns to waste the truly compelling story of Hela’s return from exile and the unmasking of Asgard’s dark past. So while what’s good in this movie probably should’ve put it in the top 15, up until this point no film has made me more pissed off at it. There are simply FAR too many genuinely great moments that get stomped on for the sake of a cheap joke to allow me to rank it any higher.

28.) Iron Man 3

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This is probably another one people expected to be ranked higher, and like “Ragnarok” its parts are much greater than its sum. Tony suffering PTSD after the events of “The Avengers”, great. Having his tech fail forcing him to be creative, excellent. The Mandarin as a front to another villain, fant…uh…we’ll get to that. Shane Black writes the daylights out of this movie’s dialogue but unfortunately he doesn’t like telling a story as a smaller part of a larger whole. The “Extremis” storyline is poorly adapted. The villain…oooh boy…the real villain, Killian, doesn’t get nearly the flak that he deserves. He’s a Hollywood hunk doing a bad “nerd’s revenge” 80s trope that was insufferable in its own decade let alone 30 years later! Now about that Mandarin…
The idea of him being a front for someone else is brilliant. Him being a front for Killian is unforgivably stupid. All that negativity said; the cast is incredibly fun to watch, the film oozes wit and charm, and it’s RDJ doing Tony Stark.

29.) Spider-Man

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By most standards I think this is a bad movie. The acting is subpar, action is laughable, the story and effects are horribly dated, but it has some of the most iconic scenes in film history (see above image). This film was great when we had very little to compare it to. Raimi’s direction clearly treats the material as kid’s stuff and a joke but every couple scenes he’ll allow them the opportunity for something more to shine through. Mary Jane as written is a shadow of her comic counterpart and everything redeemable about the character is thanks to Kirsten Dunst’s performance. For all my problems with the film the first act is quite excellent and for most of the world is the definitive telling of Spidey’s origin.
Now this scene will undoubtedly continue to be lost to time but for every kid who remembers watching the Twin Towers fall the words, “you mess with one of us you mess with all of us!”, and that scene on the bridge when the citizens of NYC rally to help fend off the Green Goblin will always hold a rare power.

30.) Superman II

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Let me be clear. If I was talking about the Donner cut this would be in the top 20. I’m not, so it isn’t. The presence of Christopher Reeve as Superman will always be a boon to a film but it can only carry you so far. The obvious reshoots, disjointed narrative, and bizarre plot turns simply outweigh the virtues and charms of Reeves, Kidder, Hackman, and Stamp in their great turns in these roles. FTR, Margot Kidder is severely undervalued as the definitive Lois Lane.

31-40 The average to bad with redeeming qualities.

31.) Blade II

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Damn it Blade! The best thing about you was how unrepentantly YOU you were. Stop ripping off the Matrix!

32.) The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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This is one I suspect that most people expected to see at the very bottom. While I certainly wouldn’t call this a good movie, it’s positive qualities are often overlooked. Garfield is a superior Spider-Man to Maguire. Emma Stone is perfect as Gwen Stacy and how her death plays out is heartbreaking. It’s like an over seasoned and over cooked steak. There’s too much going on with too much looking towards the future and not enough attention on the present.

33.) Batman/ Batman Returns

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I know for a fact that this will piss people off. Sorry, I can’t place them any higher. I recognize the first film’s significance but these iterations of these characters and the story are too divorced from my understanding to accept them. Burton is one hell of a stage designer but his interest is only skin deep. “Returns” is the same beast uncaged. While Michelle Pfifer is unrecognizable as Selina Kyle, her Catwoman is still an absolute knock out.

34.) Justice League

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Please take careful note of the above image. The Justice League is usually established by “the Founding Seven”. Can you tell me who’s missing? The correct answer is not, “Green Lantern”…
The Martian Manhunter, the League’s avatar of wisdom, who is totally absent from this entire franchise. There is not a more perfect metaphor for the DCEU.

35.) The Incredible Hulk

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Another film I kept forgetting that existed when I made this list. This is definitively average as in that it is devoid positive or negative qualities.

36.) Thor The Dark World

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When you think of bad MCU villains everyone thinks of the elf dude from this movie. I know his name because I read comics but I refuse to grant him that level of significance. Outside of him and the awful comic relief there really isn’t anything bad about this movie. It’s just bland, generic fantasy fare. Hemsworth is great as the titular hero and the dynamic between him and Sif is intriguing…though it gets sacrificed to make room for the droll Jane Foster romance. What elevates this movie above its predecessor is Tom Hiddlestin coming into his own as the MCU’s second best villain and the relationship he has with Renee Russo’s Frayje. The climax devolving into a live action “Portal” movie was inventive and fun.

37.) Thor

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The quality faux-Shakespearean royal family drama is weighed down by the lousy fish out of water comedy. Hemsworth and Hiddlestin are fine in their roles but they have yet to find their strides with them.

38.) The Amazing Spider-Man

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ASM is everything said about ASM2 but less. While that is better in some regard it is also worse in others.

39.) X-Men Apocalypse

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Over stuffed, overwrought, and under thought. This marks the second time that the third entry in a trilogy brought a Fox IP to a screeching halt. Internal logic is not a premium consideration. The villain might as well be the Power Rangers villain Ivan Ooze (seriously, Pokémon villain Mewtwo is a wildly superior version of Apocalypse). Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t want to be there anymore…and it shows. What elevates this movie above the lower tiers is Magneto’s gut wrenching subplot and Quicksilver’s scene.

40.) The Punisher

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I was honestly conflicted as to whether or not to include this movie. It’s really not part of the genre but then again neither is blade. This is a middling action movie with a talented but underutilized star. It’s neither dark nor visceral enough to do justice to its source material. Unless I’m referencing this list I’m not certain that I’ll ever have occasion to remember this movie again. Even teenage me wasn’t especially impressed by anything in it.

41-50 The Bad

41.) Daredevil

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By all fair judge of quality this train wreck should be in the bottom 10…but I’ll be damned if there isn’t a charm to its awfulness. Jennifer Gardner is a terrible Elektra Notches but damn it she doesn’t make an incredible Evanescence music video. Ben Affleck is so much better than the material he’s given. Michael Clark Duncan (RIP) is always great even when he’s a terrible Kingpin. Collin Farrell’s, “heh, Bullseye! yar!”, is an unholy delight of pure gleeful psychosis and absolute zero reservation. I can’t help but smile at every insane second of his screen time. For all that ironic joy, none of it can save this doomed endeavor (see above image). It’s real bad but it’s also a very watchable bad.

42.) Iron Man 2

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A horrible adaptation of seminal comic story and being utterly bereft of coherent direction is carried entirely by RDJ who can’t quite manage the task this go around. By no means awful, “Iron Man 2” is definitely flat and unfocused. In the scope of history this film is little more than setup for the Avengers. It does that well at the expense of everything else. Thank the heavens for RDJ’s smug charm and AC//DC’s incredible music because w/o either of them this would have been a slog.

43.) The Fantastic Four (94, Roger Corman)

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Like I said with “Daredevil”, if the primary criteria of this list was objective production quality then this…thing would be second to last (yes, there is one worse than this). Alas it is not and I can get some solid enjoyment out of good laugh. The story is silly, stupid, and simple. The acting is ham-fisted. The effects and designs are ABYSMAL. All around truly, wonderfully awful but somebody had a nickel and they tried damn it! How tragic is it that the film that was never intended to be released is still to date the best live action depiction of Dr. Doom?

44.) X3 The Last Stand

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Everything that is good about this movie only serves to highlight how truly bad the rest of it is. Xavier’s death, the awakening of the Phoenix, and Logan killing Jean are all truly beautiful and impactful moments. It’s just a shame that they’re in service to this lame plot, slipshod direction, and atrocious adaptation of the greatest story in the X-Men’s history. Jackman, Stewart, and McKellen cannot save this effort. It’s also a shame that the perfect casting of Kelsey Grammar as Beast goes to waste on this movie.

45.) Ghost Rider

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Oh Nicholas Cage…
You prove that delightful madness and an awesome visual can only carry you so far. Whether it’s the stupid plot, lame Hot Topic villain, pointless romance, or incomprehensible humor this movie tests the limits of what can be considered enjoyably bad.

46.) Fantastic Four (2005)

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This is not awful, but it is really really really bad. This is why “Spider-Man 2” deserves so much praise. Given how far the genre has come this may be hard to believe, but this was once considered par. Before I trash this thing I want to give credit to the one good thing it has going for it, Michael Chickless’ Ben Grimm/Thing. It’s not just being the best in a weak field as he is legitimately good in the role. That aside…everyone else is terrible or their talents are being squandered by this hokie, trite, childish mess of a story. By far and away the worst part of this movie is the bastardization of Doom.

47.) Superman Returns

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Oh boy. Let’s keep this short as there is little to say. Poorly cast, unfocused direction, sloppily written, and needlessly confusing. It only appears better in hindsight because we have seen worse since.

48.) Man of Steel

MoSDestruction

Case in point. This film had it all: failure of its potential, deep misunderstanding of its own themes, genuine pretentiousness, a hopelessly fragmented plot, and an utter betrayal of character. What keeps this from being among the truly awful is the good performances by the entire cast and give the man his due; Zack Snyder can’t tell a story deeper than “buff men beat up bad men!” but the man is one of the best in the business when it comes to filming action.

49.) Blade Trinity

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Dear Blade, what a fall this was. Before the MCU kicked off the third entry in a Marvel trilogy was destined for the kiss of death and Blade was no exception. While it will always be great to see Wesley Snipes in this role it was obvious just how much contempt he had for this project and I can’t blame him. If the second was treading on “The Matrix” then this installment was some edge lord s*** treading upon the original “Blade”. It’s such a shame that Blade vs Dracula is such a blatant and desperate ploy for relevancy. Hands down the best part of the movie is when Blade is tearing the amateurs down for being the rookie hacks that they are, which simultaneously serves as Wesley Snipes ripping apart those riding off of his cred.

50.) Suicide Squad

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There are two things keeping this film out of the ranks of the truly awful and their names are Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Ok, Jai Courtney was pretty good too.
Everything else about this dumpster fire of a film is comically, mind boggling atrocious. Jared Leto butchers his turn as the greatest comic book villain. The internal logic that drives the entire premise is side splittingly hilarious in its stupidity. The studio’s interference is blatantly obvious across the film and the climax is akin to what I’ve seen out of the “Naked Gun” series, except I’m supposed to take this s*** serious now. All these failures pale in comparison to the movie’s greatest sin, squandering its potential. People had a reason to be hyped for this. This should have been great and it’s REALLY bad.

51-62 The truly awful

51.) Superman 3

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This is not a terrible superhero story…but that’s only because it’s not one. It’s a terrible comedy and the worst of Richard Pryor’s career. Who green lit this? Why did they do so? What drugs were they on? These are the eternal questions that will forever surround this movie.

52.) Green Lantern

GreenLanternDeadpool

The only good to come out of this movie is that it gave “Deadpool” plenty of ammunition. What should’ve been “Training Day in SPACE” got boiled down to the same lazy conventions of “Fantastic Four” (05)’s shitty par, except that we now lived in a post-Dark Knight cinematic landscape. There is no good in this movie. Both villains are laughably terrible. The plot is insipid and the writing is unforgivably trite. All this put on the back of a hero who is decades pasts his cultural relevancy. Truly terrible.

53.) Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

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You remember what “Blade Trinity” was to “Blade”? Well that is what this collection of moving images is to “Ghost Rider”. I didn’t realize that you could fall that far from a low perch. Take everything lame and exhausting about the original and suck out the cool to replace it with more Nick Cage craziness. The only thing going for this movie is the mad zeal of its directors that manage to maintain a high level energy and nothing else.

54.) Punisher: Warzone

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Excessively violent and needlessly stupid, “Warzone” is the worst of 80s action two decades too late.

55.) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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This is another one certain to raise consternation. Unlike every other entry in this section, this film had excellent qualities and a vast potential. Ben Affleck is the best live action Batman to date. Gal Gadot’s introduction as Wonder Woman was in this movie. In the end that means its failings had to be that much more substantial. To steal a perfect quote from @MovieBob,
“…here is a film that is not only bad but disastrously conceived, ineptly produced, poorly written, incomprehensibly directed, badly acted, creatively splintered but also crushed by pretense in a way that only an auteur project can be, hideous to look at, painful to listen to, and existentially depressing to think about after the fact. A film willed into being by a marketing algorithm yet somehow believing it had been birthed fully formed from the kiss of the muses. That flails about with no coherent plot or theme, bludgeoning its audience, knee capping the very ambitions it was meant to empower, and does genuine violence to eighty plus years of pop mythology from which it was drawn. And on top of all that, a film that in its totality embodies everything wrong and that can go wrong with a self-referencing continuity obsessed franchise…”

56.) Elektra

Elektra

Let’s be honest about Elektra as a character; she is almost entirely sex appeal. Now while Ms. Garner is more than appealing enough to meet that requirement, that gives her story possibilities a very limited and shallow capacity. Pair that up with Hollywood hacks grinding for a paycheck and you’ve got a plot doomed to fail. Cloying emotionality and absurdly convoluted pretense cannot disguise that the appeal of this project is only skin deep.

57.) Batman & Robin

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It is very evident that Joel Schumacher wanted to return Batman to the Adam West era. That was wildly out of synch with the trend of the pop mythology for the character. You can explain in a hundred different ways at great length every terrible choice decision made by this movie but it all boils forth from that conceit. Since the Burton films were too far removed from the characters for my liking then this neon circus might as well have been from another dimension.

58.) Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

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What can I say about this movie that hasn’t been said a hundred times over? It’s cheap, ridiculous, nonsensical, bizarre, and an affront to the genre. This is what happens when you don’t know when to stop or how to course correct. If you can find joy in the mockery then I am not one to cast stones, but it is too tall a task for me to abide for myself. Believe it or not this is not the worst film in this franchise. That dubious distinction belongs to…

59.) Supergirl

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Oh Kara, what have they done to you. To say that this film has a plot is an insult to the concept of plot. To say that it has characters is to fail to comprehend the notion of character. Random events occur without reason or significance to narrative objects that are forced to interact with them. The blatant sexism directed at the lead and her antagonist is gruelingly offensive. Absurd and horrendous.

60.) Howard the Duck

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Yes, you’re seeing the above image correctly. That woman is about to get intimate with an animatronic duck. From the mind of George Lucas!

61.) Steel

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Question…Do you have a camera phone? Do you either cosplay or know someone who does? If the answer to both is “yes” then congratulations! You can make a better movie than “Steel”.

62.) Catwoman

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What do you get when you combine the shallow sexuality of “Elektra”, the childish logic of “Fantastic Four”, and the blatant sexism of “Supergirl”?
A truly horrendous movie. There is not a single virtue to this movie’s name. Take one of the most played out concepts in Hollywood script writing, dumb it down, throw some tattered leather onto it, film everything way too close, and pay zero regard for the source material. Truly the genre at its absolute worst.

Before we arrive at our last entry I would like to explain the absence of several films from this list. Remember that this list is comprised of what I have seen, ergo “Fant-4-stic” will be spared judgment. Now I have seen “Batman Forever” but not since I was age 10 and I feel like that shouldn’t really count. Now we come to the worst of the worst…

63.) Spider-Man 3

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In terms of objective quality this film is far from the worst but no film has ever personally wounded me as deeply as “Spider-Man 3”. While far from being a fan of the Raimi trilogy I can still recognize when something comes up short in one regard and blows it in another. This movie blew the chance at a “son of the goblin” story that had been so well set up by the second movie whilst failing to deliver on the potential of Sandman. Now the most common complaint against the film is that its overstuffed with villains, which it most definitely is, but that fails to address the scope of the failure.It’s not like these were good portrayals of these characters that got cut short. Harry fulfills his anti-arc by descending into villainy but is immediately hit with one of the lamest tropes in fiction, bonk on the head amnesia, so that they ca reset him to not be an antagonist. Sandman is a nice idea that is given no purpose in the plot. I still can’t believe that the comic fans didn’t riot over how they butcher Gwen Stacy…And then there is Venom…

Before I dive into this you need to be made aware of one fact. Eddie Brock Venom is my favorite comic book character. I adore the dynamic between the predatory alien that wants to be Batman and the over aggressive, hungry for justice, distrustful of authority disgraced journalist. To my eyes Venom is the quintessential Marvel anti-hero; made a villain by his vendetta against the hero while performing heroic acts in service of the downtrodden and vulnerable. Venom gives a damn about the wretches of society and is more than happy throw down with the structures of power to have their back, the Lethal Protector of the innocent…and what does this movie do to him?
It reimagines him as a petty weak romantic rival (which Eddie and Peter have NEVER once been in the comics), a cowardly tabloid photographer, and a mindless/soulless killing machine. Not only did they destroy his character by having him kidnap Mary Jane for that awful joke, but they also had him make a veiled rape threat at her. Raimi took everything I loved about the character and dismissed it out of hand. Worse, Raimi’s abominable iteration would go on to poison the character in the comics for a better part of the decade.

This is what makes “Spider-Man 3” the worst movie going experience of my life.

I see a black orb with an ultraviolet halo.

Then we blink back into existence

WOAH! WHY? NO! HOW? NO? WHEN? WHERE? WHAT! RAGE!…*exasperated gasping*

So we’re here! Here being a place that isn’t death or oblivion and beyond that I don’t know a goddamn thing.

Augumon!

Ok he’s here, we cool. He’s about as disoriented as I am. Ok, ok, ok. We good? We good. Get your bearings. It appears that we are surrounded by stacked metal containers. It is night. We appear to be on a dock of some sort next to a…red bridge over a river.

Oh! We landed in a designated bombing zone.

I desperately try to attune my senses the weave’s presence in this world but I’m still more than a little off. It’s like trying to watch TV through complete static. Even with the heavy interference I can sense two very powerful presences very nearby. They have to be heroic spirits and top tier ones at that for their “signal” to be this strong through the static.

Then Augumon screams as loud as he can as his brain desperately tries to cope with the hell we just experienced.

I clamp his jaw shut as I desperately whisper, “Shush! This place is death considering who we art!”

“Mongrels!” a voice I am terrified to recognize shouts at us.

FAHK!

Up in the sky upon a golden platform, a man in golden armor with gold hair and eyes red like rubies stares down at us with murderous contempt. It is the King of Heroes. He is Gilgamesh.

“How dare you interrupt us!” he bellows at us.

“We’re sorr-“ Augumon starts saying before I clamp his mouth shut again, holding on to it.

I’m not just being mean. I know what’s coming and I won’t have time to grab him again.

“For your insolence you shall die” Gilgamesh says coldly as the heads of three spears appear out of the small portals behind him.

I raise the pointer and middle fingers on my free hand up to my “third-eye” chakra. Barely an instant after I get them in position those spears fire out of those portals as they were missiles. Upon contact they explode like them as well. Fortunately I had successfully teleported Augumon and myself to the top of the containers across the way.

Instantaneous movement can be quite helpful. It’s also worth noting the clarity and focus that the threat of imminent death can provide. From this perch I can see who the other heroic spirit. It is as I expected: wherever Gilgamesh is he is in pursuit of her, the King of Knights, Arturia Pendragon.

For the initiated this is expected. For the uninitiated I imagine there is some confusion. Pardon this terse explanation but it’s the best I can do under present circumstances. King Arthur was woman who pretended to be a man to protect her claim to the throne. I’ll unpack that later when I’m not desperately trying to not die!

“You defy me!” our good King of Heroes bellows.

“Augumon!” I anxiously shout. “Yup!” he shouts equally anxiously. “Mega dino-crazy!” “Mega dino-crazy!”

The distinct sound of a particular whistle is heard and he shines with a luminously bright light as he grows in size. If you know tune to play then play it!

“Wargreymon” he shouts as his metamorphosis completes.

Remember how I once described my little buddy as Superman if he was a t-rex. It would be more accurate to say that he is a 20 ft. tall t-rex Superman with a pair of enormous clawed, dragon bane gauntlets. Aside from the obscene strength, the Superman comparison is apt because he can also fly. Which is precisely what he’s doing now, flying at Gilgamesh whose platform turns out to be some sort of airship and the two engage in epic combat.

Meanwhile I leap down from atop the steel containers so that I may attempt to engage the King of Knights. As I do a thousand questions race through my mind:

Which Royale is this? It looks like the 4th. But if it is the 4th there should be a lot more people here. Who’s the mage that summoned them? Could the 4th have played out on a different path than the one I’m familiar with? Is it the 5th? But the 5th never came here. If it is the 5th maybe Japanese Hermione actually managed to successfully summon her. Maybe it’s the 5th but that one stupid path I avoided. Could it be an as yet unknown to me 6th? 7th? 8th? Or is this a Great Divine Chalice Royale?

And many many more but I got to keep my composure because:

  1. She’s the perfect hero to take on this quest and I need to make a good impression.
  2. Can’t let anyone else who may be watching smell my fear.
  3. If I come off as a threat or weakling she could be provoked to kill me.

Stay strong.

“Greetings, your grace” I say summoning all my poise. “So you are a Master?” she asks me.

Panic panic paanic

There is reason for my consternation over that question that does not correlate to my cowardice. For one, I don’t the answer to that question because I haven’t had any goddamn time to figure anything out and that is embarrassing. For two, if I say yes then I am basically proclaiming myself as her enemy but her high honor is likely to prevent her from striking down an unready foe…so long as her summoner doesn’t compel her to kill me.

If this is the 4th and she has the same summoner then he’s definitely going to have her kill me.

“Must we use that term? I find it so gosh. I prefer Boss” I bluff like a son of a bitch. “Very well then, Boss” she responds with a faint grin, “you seem to have me at a disadvantage.”

I introduce myself. Normally that would the stupidest thing you could do during one of these things but since I didn’t exist in this world less than five minutes, I think I’m good. Besides, I stand to gain far more with obliging the courtesy; her good will.

“I imagine that is your Servant” she says as she points toward Wargreymon still engaged in epic combat with the King of Heroes.

Wargreymon keeps in pursuit of his target as they soar over the river’s surface. He deflects and dodges the projectiles shot as closes the distance to slice his enemy, but as he tries Gilgamesh evades him and zooms high above him to begin firing at range. Opening fifty portals he fires the projectiles in rapid succession. The assault forces Wargreymon to break out his shield and pins him down.

“No. He’s my friend” I tell her, “Any chance I could persuade you to assist him in knocking that pompous ass out of the sky?”

“I hear your treachery, Mongrel!” he turns his full attention to shout at me, giving Wargreymon time to break free and start chasing him again.

With a soft smile and a hearty compliment to him, she politely declines. She asks me, “So what of your Servant?” “Oh, I uh, haven’t summoned one yet” I stammer feigning bravado. “You are aware how advantageous it would be for me to prevent you from doing so?” “Indeed it would. But what if I don’t need one?” not feigning nothing. “Then you would be a fool.” “Or maybe I’m just bold, good King of Knights.” “Is that a challenge?” “Yes your grace, I do believe it is.” “You are too bold, sir. Stand down now and I shall not hold you to it.” “With all due respect your grace, what manner of man would I be if I did?” “Fare thee well then” she says as the Sword of Promised Victory shines not unlike my saber.

Excellent, I’ve kept her talking long enough to get my powers ready. I can sense a faint joy she has in and respect of me. Now all I have to do to build upon this foundation is not die. I think, I hope I can manage that. I call for a significant portion of my ADF as I ignite my amethyst blade, knowing that I’m going to need it to keep up with her speed and strength.

We begin.

At first it goes slow. Right off the bat I learn that Excalibur, or at least when it’s empowered by her legend, can in fact block a star saber. I suspect that I should suspect as much from all legendary weapons wielded by heroic spirits. Next I discover that she likes to press an advantage and then back off. She’s clearly studying my form. When the battle gets up to speed that will be my only chance at victory.

After dancing around one another for a bit she creates some distance and holds her blade perfectly still in a high guard. This fight is about to get real. For a very brief moment I see the flash of combat in my mind. She’ll lunge forward attempting to drive her blade through my face. If I sidestep she’ll reverse the grip on her blade and run me trough my back. I must deflect he blade up and away.

With that she lunges forward and she is far faster than I anticipated. I have to dodge as I can’t get my blade up to make the block. As she slides forward to make the backward thrust I sweep out her leg. She pirouettes on her back foot into a whirling power sweep. I duck underneath. As she raises the blade and slams into the ground I roll out of the impact.

When she swings with power then there is no point in me trying to block it, she’s far too strong. I could try to out maneuver her but she grounds herself too well and her defense is too tight. With a good feint I might be able work inside her guard if bites but that won’t work. Her instincts are otherworldly.

Bar none she is the greatest swordsman I’ve ever encountered. Crossing blades is going to be my doom but then again I was never anticipating holding a candle to her. All I need is to lull her into a false sense of certainty and break out the energy manipulation techniques. Let her bind my blade and as she twists it out my hands and that’ll leave me free to telekinetically push her back and follow up with an energy attack.

She attacks, binds my blade, and swings high to force it out of my hand. She’s open and I initiate the tk push but she doesn’t go nearly as far as I hoped. My energy blasts winds up being used as a makeshift shield against her return until after a few blows it dissipates. If she doesn’t declare victory now and end the fight I’m going to have to unlock my full ADF and at that point I won’t have anything left to help Wargreymon against Gilgamesh, if I win.

“Well fought” she says and I breathe a sigh of relief. “So you’re just going to let live to fight you another day?” I ask. “You never intended to kill me, so it only seems fair.”

So I guess that means she was taking it easy on me.

“Your friend is in trouble” she tells me as points towards the other combatants.

Indeed he is. Gilgamesh has Wargreymon bound by the Chain of Heaven. My partner struggles mightily and his strength keeps the King of Heroes preoccupied enough to keep him from striking the decisive blow.

“Cease your squirming you wretched beast!” he shouts.

I teleport behind Gilgamesh, one of his portals opens directly above my head.

“Goodbye, Mongrel” he says to me as the spear passes through my image and it vanishes into smoke, “an illusion!”

Dark sorcery is a beautiful thing if you know what you’re doing. Metal chain, metal armor; hmmm…I wonder what trick I got up my sleeve? He is far away and very powerful so the lighting doesn’t do much, but it is enough for him to loosen his grip and have Wargreymon break free. Once free he takes the chain wrapped around his arm and cracks Gilgamesh in the face with it like a bull whip. The King of Heroes crashes into the bridge with tremendous force.

“You…you dare!” he howls like savage beast.

He pulls a sword that looks more like a lance out of his gate. It’s his ultimate weapon, Enuma Elish. Gilgamesh points it to the sky and cries its name aloud. The blade spins and a great red beam fires up from its tip into the sky. Tectonic plates begin to shift.

Wargreymon flies high above his enemy, raising his great claws above his head and calling for the “Terra Nova!” As he does he gathers a great fireball a hundred times more massive than himself.

The two seem prepared to annihilate everything around them to win this battle. Arturia and I can’t allow that. She runs across the surface of the river and demands that Gilgamesh cease. I fly over and perch myself on top of Wargreymon’s head and tell him to “chill”. With those small gestures they relent, not because of what was said but who was saying it.

“This is not over you feral lizard!” Gilgamesh threatens as Arturia rests him upon her shoulder and they vanish into golden sparkles.

Once they’re gone Wargreymon devolves back to Augumon and is utterly spent. I hold on to him as I fly us toward the city center. He’s beat up pretty bad. It’s going to be a little bit before he’s back up to speed.

Through pained breaths he tells me, “Ok. This time we need a place with room service.” “Alright bud, I know just the place.” “So I guess the secret’s out, huh?” “Nope.” “Wha?” “You see that fog over the city?” “Yeah” “There’s some benefit to having major magical organizations overseeing this affair.” “But that fog isn’t thick enough.” “Brother, no. It’s a memory charm.” “Oh ok. That makes a lot more sense.”

It’s not long before we’re in the heart of this Japanese metropolis. This bag might be the best idea I’ve ever had. ID, credit cards, a non-conspicuous change of clothes, and a large dog kennel to pass Augumon off as one. No small town. No shitty motel. We’re staying in a five star suite.

As I talk to the concierge she says that they don’t accept dogs. I wave my hand in a small circle and ask her if she can make an exception. She agrees to make an exception. She asks kind of what breed it is. I wave my hand in a small circle and tell that I don’t have a dog, this is my suitcase. She agrees and so does everyone else, all thirteen of them, who asks.

We setup shop and settle in. Augumon wraps five different ice packs around his bruised body and utterly devours a cart full of room service. After that he starts becoming more like his cheerful, inquisitive usual self.

“So how do we know if you’ve been chosen?” he asks. “I will receive a special series of markings that will allow me to summon a heroic spirit after I prepare the ritual and deliver the invocation.” “What does it look like?” “Usually some artfully cryptic design, typically an old magic rune.” “Does it look like that?” he asks he pricks one his claws into the back of my neck.

I go to the bathroom and yup. That is definitely a summoning seal. Weird place for it though. We rest that night. Augumon is going to have to take it easy for the next couple days but in the late morning…ok, early afternoon…I get up and get the ritual ready. Later that evening everything is ready (thank you bag).

You know what? Despite a very fast start, things are actually going pretty good. Depending on who I summon the three us will actually be in a good position to win this thing. If I can keep Arturia’s favor throughout this conflict then we’ll be in an excellent position to our larger purpose. Things are going good.

I speak the invocation and the arcane might of the Chalice courses through the summoning circle through. There at the foot of the beds in that suite a heroic spirit returns from the veil of death. Whether it’s the distinct armor or the fact that she’s the spitting image of her “father” there can be no mistake. I have summoned Mordred.

Back in the cosmos, Augumon is still with me.

“I told you man. I’m in for a long journey” he tells me. “I don’t doubt you brother” I say.

So if you were to judge us by the letter of our mission statement, one could consider that an abysmal waste of time. However we did manage to kill part of the Godhand. So all in all I would say we came out ahead. Though that does confirm my suspicions as to the nature of our enemy and they cannot be overstated. Slan isn’t truly gone, she’s just gone from that world. If I want any of them to stay gone I think I know what world I need to kill them on.

“Cool. So is that where we are going?” he asks. “Definitely not! We have no hope of beating them there.” “Oh…that’s depressing.” “It would take a miracle” I say smiling. “Sounds like you know where to find one.”

As a matter of fact I do. This is another Earth but this one is very different from the last. This one is home to the Divine Chalice Royale.

“What’s that?” “It’s a once in a generation contest where magic users summon the spirit of dead heroes  to do battle with one another.”

The winning mage and hero are each granted one omnipotent wish.

“And that could beat them!” “Precisely.” “Ok, where do we sign up?” “It’s not quite that simple.”

One does not simply enter the Royale. The Chalice itself selects its participants. Sure I could set it in motion a necessary string of events to essentially “put my name in goblet”, but the potential backlash to manipulating a relic that is truly omnipotent in its world is…considerable to say the least. I’m not too keen on seeing this place turn into a Picasso by way of MC Escher interpreting David Lynch.

“So what are we going to do?” “Well my fine ferocious fellow…” “You should really not with the alliteration.” “…As I was saying… If we get picked I can summon a heroic spirit and we’re in the game!” “And if we don’t?”
This place will have at a minimum seven heroic spirits summoned and empowered by their legends. Essentially they’ll be super human versions of the greatest warriors of the past…well, removed from time to be more precise. We might even be better off if we’re not combatants as it will leave us free to recruit as many heroes as we can.

“But what about the wish?” “Then I’ll have to be quite the chess master, won’t I.” “Wouldn’t it be easier..” “I’m not rigging an omnipotent magical relic! That is my first, second, third, fourth, and tenth through twenty-seventh instinct.” “But we could win!” “Yes, yes we can. But only if it selects us, otherwise we will make do.” “Ok but I like fighting a lot more than sneaking, because I’m much better at.” “Oh I assure you either way that there will be a lot of fighting, and either we will have to rely on my intelligence and cunning.” “So you’re telling me we’re screwed.”

Hah ha! You’re funny.

“You do remember that I can see that, right?”

Of course I remember! This is my cosmos!

Anyways, enough of that banter! This world is obscenely powerful. It’s a place that is in the present to near future of my reality, with even more advanced tech. This is also a place of millennia old magical organization and magic users who are proficient in the highest levels of wizardry, sorcery, witch craft, alchemy, theurgy, elemental manipulation, techno-magic, & I could go on.

“Sweet Jesumon!” Augumon proclaims in exasperation.

All of that is the baseline before the heroic spirits are summoned. Those who have been summoned by the Chalice have consisted of: forgotten legends, culture defining heroes, classical monsters, demigods, to manifestations of gods themselves. If you uttered a divine name in reaction to the revelation of the above sentence, please bare-in-mind that they could very well show up. As daunting as that storm cloud may seem there is a shining, golden lining to it…we can cut loose!

There is zero threat of our presence unbalancing this world. We can load up with our fullest potential. Augumon is definitely going to need his ‘Mega’.

“Yaasss!” he screams, “Mega Dino-Crazy!”

And I’ll hold on to the grey galactic warrior…*Smile*…in addition to bringing the Ascendant Dragon Fighter back and upping the limit to ADF2. I won’t be able to fight at that level for long without completely exhausting myself but while I’m there I’ll be a planet buster. Not going to lie, I’m not scared. If anything I’m a little too excited by the notion.

So what shall we take? Our incredible duffle proved most useful and there’s good chance that we won’t be the only people to have one, in one form or another. Obviously I’m taking the star saber and I’m keeping it on my person at all times. The staff I’ll stuff in the bag and call for it as I need it. Fighting the heroic spirits will necessitate using the saber against their legendary weapons, but should I find myself in a magic duel then the staff will be of great use.

Excellent! All that is left is to figure the when and where. Now what is particularly vexing in this decision making process in that this world has multiple realities within multiple timelines. HmmmI suppose the better way to determine both is to ask, “which?” There have been at least a few Royales. So which one will serve our interests best?

“Ah, dude…” “Sorry bud but this is going to require some concentration” I say as I cycle through the litany of options. “Yeah yeah yay a yaa…but you really need to look at this” he stammers.

Annoyed I look up to see an ornate cup of conspicuous size levitating in the cosmos with us.

“Is that…” he trails off. “Yes. Yes it is” “Can I touch it?” “Can and should are very different considerations” “Can I talk to it?” “I reiterate, can and should.” “What do we do?”

I don’t know. Is it here to grant our wish? Did we win?

This thing is notoriously fickle and temperamental. More than once it has deliberately ignored the rules that it created for itself. It could be here to destroy us or it could be here because my cosmos would be the perfect source of the ethereal energy it needs to make itself manifest.

I think I just answered by own question.

Unfortunately that means we can’t make a wish yet. It gathers the energy to make the wish by absorbing those defeated heroic spirits-

“Why are we in it?” ‘What?”

I stare into the Chalice and I see Augumon and I in a swirling white vortex. Next thing I know we are in a swirling white vortex that spirals tighter and tighter into a minuscule black hole and we blink out of existence.

Only the Mage could tell you exactly what happened because she went into the void alone. Was she not ready either? We rush her to the Cleric’s house. Similar symptoms had befallen him, extreme aversion to heat and a need for cold, and his mother had gone through great length to save him. It is without doubt the Nightmare Hive. It waited ever so patiently for the right moment to strike. The instant it struck I sensed the portal open.

The Mage lies writhing in agony on their kitchen table. The Chief and Paladin both attempt to savagely beat me but are easily cast aside. They all want me and Augumon gone. I can’t blame but I insist on saving her. The darkness can’t have her!

I place my hand upon her forehead a dive deep into her psyche. At the first level I see the Mage in the void sobbing as screams “Popa” at a man leaving her with government scientists. At the second level is an endless loop of thoughts that her mother was trapped in. The third level is her little Paladin boyfriend yelling at her and leaving alone in the dark. I call out to her.

“Sensei!” she screams as she runs over and hugs me.

I hold her close wiping away her tears with my sleeve.

“Everything is going to be alright. This is your mind, your mind! You have dominion here” I tell her.

A sinister and booming laugh cackles all around us.

“She rejects your dominion! This is her cosmos!” I scream out at the void.

“While they are entwined by strings spun by fate a boy cries out and a girl feels. I want you for the one I care about.”

The voice of the void echoes through Eternity. I feel it ripple through every fiber of my being and hundreds of worlds shake. No! It is…There’s a sudden flash of lightning and for the briefest of moments the face of a black wolf with piercing yellow eyes flashes before me. When my senses return the void as changed; red lightning dances across the sky and many slender limbs and nondescript head of the Nightmare Hive stretch across the horizon.

“This is your cosmos” I tell her, “here only you have power. Only you can defeat it. But if you’re not quite ready you can give me the power to defeat it” “I can’t!” she cries, rightfully terrified. “Believe in the me that believes in you!” the entirety of this madness may have been orchestrated for the sole purpose of meaningfully say that phrase in proper context.

She gives me a willful smile and her eyes burn like fire. I’m transformed into a hybrid of myself and Gandalf the White as I pull my staff from the ether. I am now the Sorcerer and cast what I know as a ninth level banishment spell and the Nightmare Hive vanishes in a brilliant explosion of light that becomes a whirling portal in the sky that sucks in all of the void and her fears.

She jolts awake from the table and I fall back onto the floor, staff in hand. They all rush to her side, while the Cleric’s brother helps me to my feet. I give the Mage thumbs up and she returns it in kind. There is a moment of peace before a tear in reality opens and the hellish red light pours in as a demon claws its way through the portal.

Before anyone else can react the Mage has stepped forward. I’m one step behind her with my ignited saber in hand. The monster rips its way through, charging us and is cut in half in short order. She raises her right hand and with a single shout dissipates the portal and the demon’s body fades away into ashes.

She collapses to the ground and I notice that her veins have turned black and she is starting to shake. The ashes of the demon corpse gather along the wall in a very familiar shape, the Nightmare Hive. In the sultry voice of a woman that also echoes in the void it speaks.

“You struggle will just make your sacrifice that much more delectable.”

In my rage I cast dark lightning from fingertips and utterly decimate the wall. I can sense the portal and it knows it. This is an open challenge that I must meet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a trap, I have to go.

“Hold on to this for me” I say as I hand her my staff. “Do you have the thing I gave you before?” Augumon says to her.

She pulls the digital device out of her pocket.

“It will help” he tells her. “You ready bud?” I ask him “Yup” “Sensei!” she yells.

I turn to see her rising to her feet to bow and do so in kind. With a final nod I and Augumon walk out of the hole where the wall used to be. Once we’re outside I tell him something very important…

“Augumon, it is time.” “You mean?!” he exclaims with utter joy. “Yes. It is time for dino-crazy.” “Dino-crazy!” he roars as his voice deepens and he begins his metamorphoses into his ‘Champion’ form.

To the initiated: you know what song to play in your own head.

“Greymon” he shouts as he completes the change into a 30 ft. tall orange t-rex with three horns on a brown skull guard and blue stripes running down his back.

Channeling the weave I leap up to his back. The Party is awestruck and their family members are terrified. With a great roar Greymon charges forward. Screw subtlety! We’re making a beeline for that old government facility, we’re rampaging through that portal, and we’re slaughtering everything on the other side of it until the Nightmare Hive dies and stays dead.

Greymon barrels through the concrete walls and chain link fences as if they were paper. He claws his way through to the lowest level and there it is! The most ominous passage way made up of sinewy flesh bathed in hellfire that this world has ever seen. No slowing down now! Greymon charges through and we are greeted a hellscape of fleshy branches covering the ground, rainfall of ash, eternal dusk, and the distortion of all high pitched sounds.

In the distance towers the Nightmare Hive like some terrible dead oak standing over a barren field. All the while demons and demon dogs come at us by the hundreds. With saber in hand and fire in his breath, we give them hell. By the droves I slice them to pieces and fry them with lightning while Greymon stomps, thrashes, and incinerates them.

Now I know why it waited, it was bidding its time. Every last one of these monsters had to be grown. My suspicion is that they were waiting for us leave but the Mage discovered them in her fear trial. I’ll try to answer that question a little more thoroughly later because right now I’m kind of busy.

After several minutes the hoards stop and Nightmare Hive laughs.

“What’s so funny, Slan?” I say to her. “You are a clever boy, aren’t you?” she responds as she makes her true self manifest.

The many limbs form into the green strands of her hair and her black bat wings. The slender non-descript head forms into her sensuous succubus body.

“Look at your beautiful slaughter! Truly it moves me so. The joke is that you could consider yourself either hero or savior.”

Here it comes.

“For what sake do your worlds come into being? What do they live for? Why are they destined to meet that which important to them? Everything relies solely on conflict.”

“That’s enough!” I scream at her.

“Lambs to the slaughter, insects marching into a flame, suffering for your wil,l story-teller. A will that is not even your own.”

This will which moves me is mine own.

She howls with laughter in the face of my defiance.

“Is that so?” she says snaps her fingers and the hoard melts away into blood and bones, “Shall we count the bodies?”

With a clap of her hands the sky turns red as blood and bones assemble themselves into Skullgreymon, the skeletal reflection of Greymon’s darkness that is twice his size. The monstrous skeleton easily tosses him aside and attempts to crush him between its bony fingers.

All the while Slan has shrunk herself down to human size and glides down in front of me. I rush forward to slice her but she seemingly fades away only to materialize directly behind me. Before I can react she has bound my arms in an embrace and is wrapping her bat wings around me.

“Are you master of your desires” a voice that is not hers whispers in my ear.

I turn my head to see the Queen’s face! She’s taunting me, torturing me as rubs that face against mine and kissing my neck while extending her claws into my side.

This hurts! This hurts a lot!

But just as Greymon is about to be crushed a whistle breaks the distortion in the sound and he begins to glow. I find myself linked with the Mage. The device is active and the fire of courage is coursing through her veins burning out the Nightmare Hive.

“Metalgreymon” he roars as he achieves his ‘Ultimate’ state, growing to be a 70 ft. tall cyborg version of himself with a metal skull guard, left arm, and chest with tattered wings.

As he grows he shatters his skeletal counterpart’s arm. While the monster staggers back Metalgreymon opens up his chest and fires a pair of missiles at it. The resulting explosion utterly destroys his opponent and sends a massive shockwave sweeping over the hellscape. The only reason I’m able to withstand it is because Slan is inadvertently shielding me from it.

She goes to speak but then the pain steals her words. The fleshy tentacles are all on fire and so is the inside of her body. She releases me and staggers back as the fire consumes her from the inside out. Unable to retain her form she reverts back to the succubus.

“It is by my will that you die” I say to her as I jab the amethyst blade into her heart. “Exquisite!” Slan says breathily as she disintegrates into nothingness.

With her gone this place begins to fail too, collapsing in on itself like a dying star. Soon it will be no more.

What do we say to the God of Death? “Not today!” bellows Metalgreymon as flies by and I leap aboard him.

Pure oblivion pursues after us as we rush towards the portal. From it I hear a voice.

“Sensei!”

She’s holding the gate open. Holly hell that girl is scary powerful.

We fly through just as the tear blinks out of existence. Metalgreymon reverts to Augumon as we fall to ground. The building trembles slightly as the aftershocks reverberate through. Bruised, beaten, and bloody Augumon and I sit alone in the quiet for moment. He then starts pounding the ground in a particular rhythm. I start quietly sinking the accompanying words.

“Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise Playin’ in the street gonna be a big man some day You got mud on yo’ face You big disgrace Kickin’ your can all over the place Singin’”

He joins me in the chorus,

“We will we will rock you We will we will rock you”

We sing the rest with our full hearts like a couple of idiots. Then it’s quiet again.

“Augumon” I ask, “should we get out of here?” “And not say goodbye!” he exclaims. “Well I’m just going to be direct. Are we telling them goodbye or are we saying goodbye?” “You’re crazy man. My adventure is far from over” “Thanks man.” “Yup, no problem.” “So should we wait for rescue or should climb out of here?” “I don’t know about you but I’m tired. So I vote that we pass out and wait.” “I second that motion.”

And just like that we both fell into unconsciousness. An unknown amount of time later we awoke in at the Chief’s cabin. Fortunately our little endeavor was widely understood to be an earthquake and damages will be paid accordingly. I still feel kind of bad about the house.

Me and the Mage have a conversation about what she should do.

“Believe in the me that believes in you” she says. I shake my head no, “Now you need to believe in the you that believes in you.” “You go?” “Yes” “Don’t. You stay.” “Sorry kid, I got worlds to save.” “I go?” “No. You stay here and keep these idiots safe.”

Just as I say that the Party busts through the door. They may be happy I’m alive but it ain’t me they’re here to see. My boy Augumon eats that attention up. The Bard hands the bag back to me, god only knows what these pre-teen boys used that power for. So while the Party is busy explain how they made Augumon an NPC for their next campaign I reach into the bag and pull out a star saber.

The Mage’s eyes go wide and I hand it to her with a nod.

“Thank you” she says. “You’ve earned it” I tell her.

So it’s time to go. I may not care too much for this place but I will miss its people. I could stay here but I can’t. It would be a nice place to tie everything off for now, but that’s not how this journey goes. Onward we go to new and dangerous place in pursuit of victory against Fate itself. We say our goodbyes and we’ll leave them to chart their own courses.

Now she’s free to be a real kid.

“We can always comeback” my orange companion says. “Oh I know you are” “You’re not?” “Probably best if I don’t.”

We’re back at the motel and a certain Camaro is in the parking lot. I’m sure that relationship will end well. Augumon tosses me the keys and we climb. There’s one song we got to play on our way out of town. I plug in the cassette and electronic piano leads us in.

“You can’t can’t stand the way that I walked out from the wreckage Can’t understand the way the way I turned myself around I tried to terminate this With you But you won’t let it go You keep on coming back for more”

This time we pull out at a little more leisurely pace.

“Freedom!” “We’re takin’ it back” “We’re out of here, no turnin’ back” “We’re in a baby blue Cadillac” “Just when we were stallin” “We heard an angel callin”

As we’re rolling down the street some bicycles pull up next us and the Party joins in the singing.

“This is your life” “You can go anywhere” “You gotta grab the wheel and own it” “And drive it like you stole it” “Roll it” “This is your life” “You can be anything” “You gotta learn to rock and roll it” “You gotta put the pedal down” “And drive it like you stole it” “And drive it like you stole it”

With that we wave our last goodbyes and  I accelerate and don’t stop until the Camaro vanishes into a flash of electricity and burning tire marks upon the ground.

The following morning we ride with the Chief to his cabin home. It’s a little ways from town, safe and secluded. Exactly the kind of place you’d keep a 13 year old girl with burgeoning psychic powers until she was properly integrated into society. It’s a quaint but pleasant domicile. Me and Augumon sit on the couch as the Chief knocks on a bedroom door.

The door opens and the Chief persuades her to come out and join us.

“Hi! I’m Augumon.” says Augumon.

I introduce myself with less enthusiasm. The Mage introducers herself by tersely saying just her first name. Small conversation is initiated; she has a small circle of friends that like playing table top adventure games…hence the handle. The discussion shifts to her powers and get a little more complicated. Fortunately, unlike the people of the Song, I don’t have centuries of technological and cultural knowledge on her or her adoptive father and that makes explaining myself a little easier. What they need to know is fairly easily conveyed, I’m a galactic warrior from beyond the stars and I’m here to train her.

The ‘why’ is where I still remain elusive. To be truthful I’m not entirely sure myself. It’s more a feeling than a thought and I’m going to run with it. Why am I so eager to pass on this knowledge? I tell myself over and over that it is because “it is that will which is mine own” but after my encounter with the King Other I am terrified that I act in service to something else.

Am I but a pawn in my own game?

The Chief wants assurances of her safety, as any good parent would. My retort is asking whether or not he’d like her bleeding to stop when she uses her powers. They both like that notion very much. Her distrust is plain in her face but I can sense the eagerness in her heart.

She rises and makes a demand of me, “How I know?” “How do you know what?” I question back. “How I know if true?” “You want to see it for yourself?”

She nods. I stand up and walk across the room. I point at the television.

“Throw it at me” I tell her.

The Chief asks if we can use something a “little less valuable”.

“Throw me!” Augumon volunteers. “Dude, you’re a little more than a little more valuable than a TV” I chide him. “Yeah but I won’t break” “You mean that I’ll catch you, right?” “Yeah sure that to” “Ok” the Mage says. “I’m ready” says Augumon

She tenses up her shoulders and the TV rises off the ground into the air. There is no doubt; she has a strong presence in the weave. Her hand claws up as lashes her arm forward and the television is sent hurtling towards me. The technique is raw, primal.

I hold my hand up as I was catching a baseball and it is that easy. Through the weave I seize the device in midair and gently set it back into place. Clearly she has power but wields it like a club. Above all else we must refine her abilities. There is no peril of time, and I’m shaken by what happened with happened with the Bastard, so there is no need and there will be no use of the time chamber.

Upon closer inspection I am reminded of how exceptionally shitty TV’s were in the years prior to my birth.

“Augumon, I think we got a gift for her in the bag” “Oh yeah! I almost forgot”

Forgot? I just thought of this. How can he know? Well, that’s it.

My companion pulls out a hand sized digital device of particular significance that the initiated will recognize. If you’re among the uninitiated then don’t worry about it…too much.

“If you ever need to find me this will help” he tells her. “Ok that’s cool but not what I was talking about” I say as I wander over.

I reach into the bag and pull out a DVD player with a built in screen and three films of particular relevance. She is instructed to watch all three movies and that training begins later this week. The Chief is instructed that this if future technology and it would be to the timeline’s benefit to not have it leave these premises. He agrees.

Augumon and I step outside for a moment as the Chief prepares to take us back into town. I’d like to have a little chat about that gift of his.

“So you just wanted to go on an adventure, huh?” I press him. “Wha are you talking about?” “That’s quite the gift you gave.” “So you know what that is, huh?” “Dude, of course I know” “Yup I guess you would. You’re not mad are you?” “No of course not…” “Because we’re still partners, right?” “Yeah, yeah we are but you got to listen for a sec, ok?” I ask as I get down eye level with him, “You didn’t decide to come here on a whim. Somewhere deep down you really wanted to come here for that reason, right” “Yup. Was that bad?” “No, no it wasn’t but you have to be mindful of your desires. My will can bend the fabric of this world and I suspect that as an extension of mine, so can yours?” “Ah, I uh…I’m confused. What does that mean?” “It means that if you want something badly enough then the world will accommodate you. As such you need to think about what it will do see that wish done.” “Like you and the Queen?” I close my eyes and swallow hard, “Yeah like that.” “Hey cheer up! It’ll be ok. I promise.” “I do sincerely appreciate that bud but I don’t if that’s a promise you can make.” “It will, I’ll show you.”

I pet his t-rex head and he hugs me. We can make this right but I’m afraid that his optimism is naivety and ignorance of what we’re really up against. If it is as I fear then all of this is akin to a doomsday prepper preparing to outlast the Sun’s supernova.

That’s enough existential dread. The Chief comes out and we load up into this truck and make our way back into town. He asks where we’ll be staying, as he’d like us to remain inconspicuous. We go back to the motel. We arrange a meeting time for two days later and he drives off.

Augumon pulls my long coat out of the bag and uses it to cover himself as we walk to our room on the first floor. I pull out the room key from the bag and we make ourselves at home in that dingy room. While the two of us idiots watch movies, have a dance competition, and re-steal the 79’ Camaro; now would be a good time to explain a few things…namely, the bag.

What it says on the tin is what you get, “a bag that contains everything we need”. Now given that we know that the worlds will attempt to balance themselves out from whatever displacements you introduce into them how can I justify so haphazardly introduce such a device. Simple, keep it small enough to not make a major difference. These worlds are bound by their creators like knots and similarly have as much give as they are, knowingly or not, designed with. My error with the Song was not respecting that it’s tied like the Gordian knot. This Peculiar Place is more a figure eight knot; you can pull from several directions in increments and not notice the difference.

In the grand scheme of a ‘world’: car keys, clothing, a couple thousand dollars, and a motel room will have no bearing on reality as those things exist and are in common use. A DVD player and a modern television will have more of an effect because these are advanced technologies but are technologies that already exist. If worst came to worst some jerk would patent the designs and get rich by leap frogging technology by a couple decades. That would only negatively affect the actual future inventor/patent holders, which sucks for them but it isn’t a threat to the world.

However a pseudo-magical device that grants humans quasi-divine power in a self-sentient digital world that is currently in fledgling state, if existing at all, could have some severe repercussions. I understand why Augumon did it, who doesn’t empathize with trying to relive past glories if you’re past a certain age, but we all too often forget what made those days “glorious”. You only get to be as big hero as the evil you face and all that entails. Not that I have room to talk.

Two days come and go and the Chief picks us up under the cover of early morning. I’m back to my tunic and robes. We walk into a deep part of the woods where there is a bog…I am a thief and pretender…and the Mage is waiting for us. This is the first part of training, setting up shop.

As I use the saber to slice trees into balancing stumps I instruct her to lift the pieces in heavier and heavier loads. She is powerful but her focus wavers. When angered or stressed she lift an entire tree but she needs to heat of the moment to do it, her connection to the weave is too reliant upon her emotion. It will take time but she must find clarity to achieve control.

At the end of our session our little arena has been made. She bled a lot and I know her father is going to give me hell for it. That’s all the more reason to find that clarity, that center. Once she can interact with the weave with a little less emotion then that should stop.

The most important take for me is that I’m only going to train her in the light. As a grey I could train her in both but that would not be wise. Though she may be a child who’s been exposed to far more darkness that any person should, she is still a child and the light makes a better foundation. It’s easier to learn to question rules as you age than it is impose rules upon questions. That and the dark is inextricably tied to one’s emotion, something that calling upon endangers her life. Quite unlike the Bastard she has an affinity for it. By nature of her birth and her life experiences she is attuned to it. Whereas the dark would overcome and wield him it would consume her.

Maybe once she’s secured a safer connection to the weave and has achieved more emotional stability I would highly encourage her to master her dark. Yet we must learn to walk before we can run. The next couple weeks will be nothing but basics, the months after that will be augmentation & martial combat training, leading into the half year mark we shall focus on advanced applications, at the half year mark we will begin the deep dive into advanced technique, and hopefully by the nine month mark we can start rounding out the advanced techniques with advanced applications.

Just as we’re about to end for the day I take a wet rag and wipe the blood away from her nose. I tell her that she did a great job and Augumon is overjoyed to praise every cool thing that she did in excruciating detail. In time we’ll worry about curbing ego but for now I need her to want to come back. For what it is worth she is very powerful but I can’t say it enough, that power is bloody raw.

The Chief came by to drop off lunch and check-in on her around midday. He comes back around to collect us all a couple hours later. When he does he has company. The Mage’s little group of friends consists of the Paladin, Cleric, Bard, Ranger, and Zoomer collectively calling themselves the Party. The Paladin’s mother is his co-pilot. On our way back into town she’s quite insistent on being the conversationalist. That’s not her usual M.O. Clearly she’s here to get a sense of us. Augumon wins her over.

As we pull into the motel parking lot she invites us to dinner. I politely defer to take her up on the offer at a later time. Augumon hides underneath the long coat as we talk. Just before they’re about to pull away the Mage steps out of the back seat. She places her hands together and bows, calling me sensei. I am moved and bow in kind. Maybe it’s just a formality but that meant a lot to me.

Before she goes I ask her, “What do you want you Gi to look like?” “What is Gi?” she asks. I point to my vestments and tell her, “It’s our uniform.”

She nods acknowledging that she understands.

“Do you have it pictured in your head?” I ask her.

She nods. I hold up the bag a gesture for her to reach in. She pulls out her Gi, exactly as she would want it. There’s a magical kind of wonder in her eye.

“Thanks” she says.

She gets back in and they drive away. Once they do I sense eyes on me. The angry jock is watching me from his Camaro from across the street. I glare at him and he drives away.

Let me not be bothered by his nuisance.

We rest for a couple hours when a knock comes at the door. Augumon covers himself with the sheets. I answer the door to be greeted by the Party. They have many many questions for me that all essentially revolve around whether or not I’m a galactic warrior. I assure them that I am by telekinetically closing the door. They knock on the door more. I open the door and they have a thousand questions about their irrelevant assumptions. This, this I do not have the patience for.

“I’ll tell you everything” volunteers Augumon. “Everything?” I query him. “Most everything” he clarifies.

Truth be told, I’m more than happy to let him play baby sitter. I need this time to do some assessment of my surroundings. The easiest thing for me to sense should be a portal to this shadowscape that started the whole mess for this town. Since I can’t I can only assume that there isn’t any…now. For one I know that its return will more than likely be a slow creep and not a grand explosion. While we’re here I must remain vigilant.

Why am I so certain that they will return? My little bag of wonders may have a negligible effect on the world but the presence of me and dino companion do not. This world will make an effort to realign itself the Nightmare Hive will take advantage. The Mage’s growth should not upset the balance as we are honing as opposed to awakening her power. With a little help and a lot of guidance she can beat it for good.

While I’m being honest I need to own up to something. I don’t expect the Nightmare Hive to react. I’m counting on it. If I can confront it in its realm I can confirm or deny the foreboding suspicion growing in my heart. When that time comes we will be ready for it.

If I am to have any hope in the face of my grave fear we must be ready.

On the outskirts of a small Indiana town is a motel. At this motel a high school senior is having an illicit rendezvous with the mother of one his younger sister’s friends. For the initiated, he is the older brother of the Zoomer and she is the mother of the Paladin. He’s an angry jock who takes his anger out on all the wrong people in all the wrong ways and she’s a desperate housewife who settled for less than she wanted, far too soon.

Though I don’t much enjoy his personality I do appreciate his style. The illicit lovers make out with one another as they enter their second story motel room. Once their door is shut and locked electricity sparks in the parking lot. The sparking increases as a silver orb manifests, growing larger and larger until it explodes leaving a flaming circle with me and Augumon standing in the center, our aviators on and non-descript duffle bag hung over Augumon’s shoulder.

We saunter over to the angry jock’s steel blue 79’ Camaro and get in.

“So how are we going to start the car?” Augumon asks me. “Reach into the bag” I tell him.

He pulls out a set of keys for this 79’ Camaro.

“Whatever we need is in this bag” I tell him. “Oh! That’s neat.”

As I insert the key into the ignition and let the engine warm up Augumon pulls out a red and orange striped scarf which he wraps around his neck. The Camaro’s engine roars as I feed it a little. Reaching into the duffle bag I pull out a cassette.

“What’s that?” he asks me. “The perfect song for this occasion” I answer as I insert the cassette into the player.

The electronic keyboard feeds into the rhythmic drums of the intro:

You can’t can’t stand the way that I walked out from the wreckage Can’t understand the way the way I turned myself around I tried to terminate this With you But you won’t let it go You keep on coming back for more

The tires squeal as the Camaro peels out of the parking lot and speeds down the dark highway. I crank the volume up and the two of us sing with our whole hearts like a couple idiots

“Freedom!” “We’re takin’ it back” “We’re out of here, no turnin’ back” “We’re in a baby blue Cadillac” “Just when we were stallin” “We heard an angel callin”

The brisk midwinter air floods through the open windows. It’s a little nippy but nowhere near too cold, cause we got fire in our hearts and spirit in our lungs.

“This is your life” “You can go anywhere” “You gotta grab the wheel and own it” “And drive it like you stole it” “Roll it” “This is your life” “You can be anything” “You gotta learn to rock and roll it” “You gotta put the pedal down” “And drive it like you stole it” “And drive it like you stole it”

The farther we go the faster we accelerate and the more we dance in our seats.

“We get stuck in the dirt” “And we can’t see where we’re going” “We face all kinds of hurt” “And the friction slows us down” “But we won’t be waitin’ for the world to win us gold” “And we’ll leave your dust behind us” “Stranded in the road”

Cars on the other side of the road are flashing their lights and blaring their horns at us. It’s only a matter of time now.

“Freedom!” “We’re takin’ it back” “Attitude” “We’re givin’ it back” “In a baby blue Cadillac” “Just when we were stallin” “We heard an angel callin”

At long last a pair of red and blue siren lights starts to tail us. We’re not going to keep him long, but we are going to finish this song.

“This is your life” “You can go anywhere” “You gotta grab the wheel and own it” “And drive it like you stole it”

The cop is right on our ass and flashing his brights. The light illuminates the silhouettes of Augumon drumming on the dash board and me swaying like an epileptic lunatic.

“This is your life” “You can go anywhere” “You gotta grab the wheel and own it” “And drive it like you stole it” “Roll it” “This is your life” “You can be anything” “You gotta learn to rock and roll it” “You gotta put the pedal down” “And drive it like you stole it”

As the last few bars of repetition and “hoo, hoo, hoo-ooh-ooh” play out I let the car coast to a stop. The music fades out as I shift into park. The deputy walks up to the driver-side window and he is not prepared for what he’s about to see.

“Son, do you have any idea how fast you were…” he starts with but tapers off as he sees an tiny orange dinosaur in the passenger seat.

I wave my hand in a small circle as I speak, “Officer you don’t need your gun, do you? We’re cooperating.” “Yeah I don’t need it”, he says as he pulls his pistol out its holster and tosses it aside, “why is there a giant lizard in your vehicle?” I wave my hand as I speak, “Sheeesh…I think you’re going to need the Chief to check this out.” He speaks into his handheld radio, “Chief, I need you to check something!” “Back at the station” as I wave my hand. “Meet me back at the station” he nervously echoes my words.

Augumon and I climb into the back of his squad car and he quietly hums the song as we are taken to their little lock up. As per my “request” we are put in a cell removed far removed from any others, are allowed to keep all our items, and the cell door is left unlocked. Now all we have to do is patiently wait.

It’s a little but not too long before the Chief storms over to gaze at us in bewilderment. We politely introduce ourselves and he demands to know who the hell I’m with.

“Me, myself, and him” I quip as I point back at Augumon sitting on the cot.

The Chief demands to know what the hell he is.

“I told you, I’m Augumon” my companion says.

The Chief rudely requests for clarification.

“Chief, take my word on this. Explaining him too much will only make less sense” I respond.

I ask him if he’s seen a particular series of films of popular and critical acclaim. He says “yes” and I assure him that I’m a “galactic warrior”. He sneers unbelieving as he locks the cell door. As he takes a step back I flip my hand to the side and unlock the door and push it open as I push my hand forward. Duly alarmed he grabs his handgun and trains its sights between my eyes.

“Really? You of all people should know how this goes” I say to him.

While he’s commanding me to freeze I reach through the weave and wrench the gun free of his grip and toss it against the back wall. It goes off as it impacts.

“What’s going on in here?” the Deputy asks as he enters. I wave my hand, “Chief dropped his gun. He’s got to be more careful.” “Jesus, Chief! You’re going to hurt somebody” he berates his boss.

The Chief is befuddled as to the nature of reality and queries his deputy as to what the hell Augumon is.

“Oh he’s my iguana” I answer for him, waving my hand in a particular fashion that shall continue for the duration of this exchange. “Yup, I’m totally an iguana” Augumon concurs. “You can hear him talk because you’ve been working too hard” “Uh huh and you totally deserve a day off.”

The deputy rubs his hand through his hair and sys to his boss how he’s out of it and needs to take a day. The Chief nervously agrees as he stares at me. The deputy thanks me for reporting the stolen car and coming down to station to give a witness account. I assure him that his thanks “aren’t warranted” and he walks back up to the office to sign out for the evening.

While the Chief is trying to gather his bearings on what the hell just happened I approach him and say, “Chief, we got to talk about Eleven.”