Monday, September 1, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Wolverine #12

I often have nightmares of waking up in the principals office of my old high school. I'm 16-years-old again, I've just been caught stealing the cheerleaders' underwear for the fourth time, and one of the cheerleaders happen to be my gym teacher's daughter. I know I'm really fucked. I know it's going to be bad. No matter how long I live or how long the alcohol and blow take to kill me, my worst hell will go back to moments like that. For a guy like Wolverine who dealt with the equivalent of asshole principals armed with killer robots, I'm sure his version of hell is a lot worse. At the same time, it always comes back to Sabretooth, who is like an asshole principal armed with an atomic bomb. Since Wolverine lost his healing factor, everything has revolved around getting back at Sabretooth. He's gone to great lengths to put himself in a position to make him want to throw himself into a meat grinder to be served as hot dog filling for Raiders fans. Well Wolverine #12 promises to be the end of that journey.

It hasn't been a smooth journey to say the least. At times, it has been like driving an old pickup truck over a road paved with bowling balls. Wolverine pretended to ditch his friends, then he didn't. He boned another woman and got a tattoo along the way. At times it felt no different than an all-nighter in Vegas, but now the party is over. The big showdown is here. I've got my popcorn, my whiskey, and an ice pack for my balls if necessary. If I get to use all three, I'll know if this was worth the complications.

From a purely tactical perspective, Sabretooth has employed a strategy that would make General Patton proud. Armed with the alien weapon, he has isolated his enemy from any support. He's created an impenetrable shield around the mall where he and Wolverine are trapped with dozens of innocent civilians. He also uses the weapon to summon an army of alternate versions of those allies so they'll be too busy to help him. It's probably only slightly more effective than an army of ninjas defend him, but I give it points for creativity. It does exactly what Sabretooth needs it to do, ensuring the battle is just between him and Wolverine. Sure, he had to go to excessively elaborate measures, but it's probably still cheaper than paying an army of ninjas.

That doesn't mean Sabretooth has shunned ninjas entirely. He still has a few guarding him while he's using the alien weapon to keep everyone outside the barrier occupied. He also still has Pinch's daughter as a hostage. He has every possible advantage. He also won't shut up about creating a new world for himself, one where Wolverine dies a terrible death every hour and beautiful naked women roam the planet with whiskey dripping from their nipples. It's the kind of ambition that he essentially plagiarizes from the Red Skull or Loki, making him feel less like Sabretooth and more like just another guy begging to French kiss the business end of Wolverine's claws. It's a trend that has been unfolding throughout this series. It does little to make Sabretooth more compelling as a character, but it gives Wolverine yet another reason to kick his ass because he can never have too many of those.

After a few more annoying monologues from Sabretooth, Wolverine finally gets into position to get this pay-per-view worthy event going. All the civilians that could've been caught in the crossfire have conveniently gotten away. Now Sabretooth is isolated in the open, surrounded by only a couple of ninjas and a little girl. It's a strategy that would make General Patton roll his eyes because it essentially ignores what could have been a much more chaotic fight. Instead, Wolverine just decides to wait until Sabretooth is about to kill Pinch's daughter before throwing the first punch. It's as predictable as it sounds. But at least that means the battle can officially begin, right?

Wrong. This is where the pay-per-view scale of this Wolverine/Sabretooth battle starts to feel like a bigger ripoff than a pack of used Q-tips. The battle outside with all the alternate versions of Lost Boy, Pinch, Thor, and anyone else who decided to help contributes nothing. It just serves to ensure that everybody else stays busy and doesn't bother Wolverine and Sabretooth. Then after Wolverine makes quick work of the three or four ninjas protecting Sabretooth, they just start talking.

That's right. They don't tear into each other like a drill sergeant at a camp for fat kids. On top of it all, Sabretooth says that he has the power to remake the whole fucking world with the alien weapon in his hand. He doesn't even need to fight. He just needs to flip the proverbial switch and the next thing he knows, he's in a world where every river flows with whiskey and Wolverine's blood. Then Wolverine points out that he can't remake his world with him still in it. For some reason, Sabretooth has to kill Wolverine first before he makes this world. Anyone looking for an explanation here can smoke all the dope they want. They're not going to find it. For some reason, this alien weapon isn't powerful enough to get the job done while Wolverine is still breathing. If it were a new smart phone, I would have kept the receipt and traded it for an old iPhone. It does finally get Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting, but not with the same emotion that we had hoped.

Nothing they say to each other builds up the big moment whatsoever. The only thing it accomplishes is getting Wolverine to ditch the special armor he's been using to compensate for his lack of a healing factor. That's like daring someone to fight a tank with a butter knife. Taking that dare isn't a show of badass toughness. It's a show of Jackass style stupidity and not in the way that'll make anyone laugh. All it accomplishes is getting Wolverine in his underwear. The ladies might enjoy it, but anyone looking for Wolverine to fight smart will be pissed off.

And Wolverine choosing the dumbest possible means of attacking Sabretooth isn't even the worst part. All the talking they did that led up to this stupid decision didn't really amount to much. All the history and hatred these two have for one another is supposed to make it one of the greatest rivalries in the history of comics. But none of that shows in a word they say. It's just Wolverine taunting Sabretooth about how he would make a shitty god to a new world. That's like George W. Bush saying, "We may have mismanaged Iraq." It's one of those "No shit!" moments that really doesn't need to be belabored. There are so many other things they could have said to add some fuel to this battle. But all it did was show that Wolverine and Sabretooth would make shitty motivational speakers.

The big battle finally begins. It's pretty basic, but still fairly detailed. Wolverine and Sabretooth punch, kick, slash, and scratch at each other as they've done countless times before for far less compelling reasons. But at no point does it feel anywhere near as epic as it was built up to be. Hell, the fight between Cyclops and Wolverine was far more epic in Schism and they were on the same fucking team at the time. It's not very bloody. It's not very brutal. It's like a PG-13 version of a slasher movie. It so watered down that it feels like a rip-off. Even when Wolverine throws in a little inner monologue, it adds nothing whatsoever. It just makes keeps this fight and a disappointingly pitiful scale.

But the most disappointing part by far is saved for the ending. Like every shitty sports movie made since the Mighty Ducks, Wolverine manages to overcome the fact that he's in his fucking underwear and has no healing factor to deliver the knock-out blow to Sabretooth. There's still no blood. He doesn't cut him in his jugular. He doesn't try to decapitate him the way he's done in the past. He just hits him with one punch to the jaw. Let me say that again. He hits Sabretooth with one fucking punchy. And somehow that's enough to knock him out. Sabretooth, the guy who is at least two feet taller and has a healing factor, gets knocked out by a single punch from Wolverine to end what was supposed to be such an epic fight. That's the ending the final episode of the Sopranos with some overly ambiguous fade to black. Okay, bad example.

It is by far one of the most disappointing final battles in quite some time. This whole series was built around the premise of Wolverine seeking a rematch with Sabretooth after he got humiliated in their last encounter. They went to all these crazy, fucked up lengths make it happen, going so far as Wolverine pretending to quit the X-men. And in the end this rematch was about as epic as a Happy Days rerun. Nothing was really accomplished. Wolverine beat up Sabretooth, stopped him from using an alien weapon, and saved Pinch's daughter. And he did it in the most boring way possible. If it were a Disney movie, even kids would say, "Well that sure was a waste of time." Anyone who had any excitement whatsoever for this battle would be better off watching reruns of Miami Vice.

Even after his victory, it doesn't get any more satisfying. Wolverine wins, he conveniently passes out from his injuries, and he wakes up in a hospital bed to find out from SHIELD that all the boring clean-up crap that nobody wants to read about has been taken care of. The alien weapon is contained and Sabretooth is in custody, as if that ever stopped him before. He even meets up with Pinch and Lost Boy. Even though he betrayed them, using them only to get to Sabretooth and putting Pinch's daughter in danger in the process, they shrug it off and wish him a fond farewell. There's being forgiving and then there are symptoms of severe head trauma.

There's no emotion here. Pinch and Lost Boy did nothing to endear themselves to Wolverine or anyone for that matter. They might as well have been stunt doubles. If these two never showed up in another comic book again, I don't think too many fans would get pissed. Then again, fans get pissed enough when Wonder Woman's uniform changes so it's hard to say.

There is still some effort to add meaning to the end. Kitty Pryde pays a visit to Wolverine while he's recovering. They have a little chat, but they don't say much. It basically amounts to Wolverine accepting his mortality, as if being beaten to death before didn't get the point across, and wanting to enjoy what little time he has left. There's really nothing groundbreaking about this. He probably could've come to the same conclusion from dry-humping Storm. While I do give some points for effort, it's a piss poor effort that doesn't come close to make up for a piss-poor conclusion to what had been set up to be anything but piss poor.

When I finished reading this book, I reacted the same way I imagine Warren Buffet acts when someone tells him he made another million dollars today. After so much build-up and so many elaborate, needlessly complicated plots, this final class between Wolverine and Sabretooth just fell flat. The alien weapon and the cut little hostage he went to such great lengths to torment did absolutely nothing for him in the end. It just turned into a typical Wolverine/Sabretooth street fight, one that could have easily have happened anywhere and for any reason. In the end Wolverine won, but it was about as satisfying as seeing the Yankees win another World Series. There was nothing epic about it. There was little drama surrounding it. They fought, Wolverine won, he headed up, and that's about it. There might have been some deeper symbolism to his victory here, but it's the kind of symbolism that adds nothing to the plot. It's like the plot just went, "Ah fuck it, let's just get this over with and get drunk."

So all that popcorn and whiskey I saved up for this blockbuster battle ended up going to waste. That in and of itself is a tragedy from which this book cannot be redeemed. Wolverine #12 gets a 4 out of 10. In the end this story is painfully simple. Wolverine battles Sabretooth. Wolverine wins and learns to appreciate his new limited life a bit more. That's it. There's no need to draw it out for 12 fucking issues and waste a bunch of perfectly good whiskey. Nuff said!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Cyclops #4

Some people are better equipped to deal with shitty situations than others. These people will fuck up like everybody else, but they'll actually find a way to come out stronger. They're the ones that become accomplished athletes and businessmen. Sometimes they'll also become politicians and lawyers, but we take the good with the bad. Superheroes have to deal with shittier situations than any overpaid athlete or well-connected politician. They can't always buy or charm their way out of a problem, unless they're name is Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne. They have to be survivors. Cyclops has definitely survived some pretty amazing shit, including but limited two a couple of dead wives, a clone, and a homicidal lost brother. But O5 Cyclops hasn't survived these things yet and hasn't yet become the alpha male X-man who's equipped to confront any threat and still have the strength to bone Emma Frost and Jean Grey.

That's what has made the Cyclops solo series so enjoyable. We get to see O5 Cyclops on his journey to becoming this survivor with help from his father of all people. In Cyclops #4 he gets a chance to learn a very important set of survival skills, namely those that help him survive being stranded on an alien planet. Even though he's just a teenager, these are skills he needs to learn if he's going to live long enough to see Emma Frost and Jean Grey naked.

Being a good father and all, Corsair is dedicated to teaching his son the skills he'll need if he's going to hook up with women like Emma Frost and Jean Grey. That includes survival skills on an alien planet. I'm not entirely sure how that would help him deal with beautiful women, but I imagine it can't hurt. Like much of this series, O5 Cyclops shares some of his inner thoughts. He and Corsair are roughing it, doing what they can to survive in this alien world with the knowledge that his father won't be able to live much longer without the illegal drugs he's been using. It sounds like an awesome Breaking Bad spin-off, but it reveals O5 Cyclops' growing doubts.

When they're not just trying to survive, Corsair attempts to teach his son other skills that he might find useful when the time comes to get Emma Frost and Jean Grey out of their panties. That includes swordplay because beautiful women apparently love guys who can wield a sword. And Corsair shows that O5 Cyclops clearly has plenty of room for improvement. His current skills wouldn't impress a waitress at an Applebees, let alone the Emma Frost's of the world. Corsair is a tough teacher, not adhering to any the bullshit New Age parenting techniques that only permit feeding a teenager's bloated self-esteem. But he does it in a way where he doesn't come off as a dick. He just comes off as a competent parent. Seriously, why does that have to sound like such a novel concept?

O5 Cyclops, to his credit, accepts his shortcomings with more maturity than my entire graduating high school class. But he accepts them a bit too much in that he seems okay with knowing that he's probably going to die on this alien planet as soon as Corsair dies. And what teenage boy in his position wouldn't think that? He's not the experienced space pirate here. He only recently learned how to fly a space ship and flirt with alien women. How can he expect to survive on his own once his father is gone? He can't and for once, that's not just typical teenage angst. That's just plain logic.

Corsair, once again demonstrating the kind of parenting skills that are exceedingly rare in comics, refuses to accept that attitude in his son. Any decent, non-lazy parent wouldn't accept it. So he calls his son out on his angst. Anyone who has ever called a teenager out on their angst knows it's like trying to trim a pit bull's toenails when he's he's horny. It's a tough fight to even approach, but Corsair does in a way that once again doesn't make him come off as a dick. He's just being a decent parent. I know I should be used to this by now in this comic, but it still astounds me.

This leads to a much more meaningful conversation, which O5 Cyclops and Corsair have been having a lot of lately. Whereas previous issues focused primarily on Corsair, this time they focus on the man O5 Cyclops became. Corsair claims that the reason his older self went down such a dark path was because he lost hope. It sounds cheesy, like something from a Mel Gibson speech. But it's not wholly inaccurate. It's just overly simplistic, ignoring the really fucked up circumstances in which Cyclops found himself. I'm sure a lack of hope wasn't what drove him to marry a clone of his dead girlfriend or go Dark Phoenix when everyone in the Marvel universe was attacking him.

That said, there is some merit to it and Corsair even relates it to his own experiences. He mentions at some point how Cyclops traded hope for rage. That still doesn't account for the difficult circumstances he had to deal with, but it does show how his judgment and his outlook became so clouded at times. There's no doubt that Cyclops as an adult became a much darker person and not just because he dated Emma Frost. O5 Cyclops once again makes clear that he does not want to become that person, which he has said time and again since All-New X-men started. It's a powerful moment for him and one that couldn't have happened without decent parenting. And it didn't even require Corsair to threaten to take his cell phone away. He's rapidly becoming the anti-Darth Vadar of comic book parents.

Encouraged by his father, something I'm sure many teenagers aren't used to, O5 Cyclops decides to ditch the angst and get to work on this new hopeful approach. But unlike the bullshit self-esteem programs that are pushed in high schools, he decides that wishful thinking is for suckers and goes to work finding the quantum tracker from the ship. He's not an expert on quantum trackers or anything quantum related. But he knows that if they're going to be rescued, they need to fix this thing so some bounty hunters can find them. Technically, that's not a rescue. That's more like trying to hitch a ride with a state trooper by waving a bag of cocaine in the air, but it's better than staying stranded.

Now O5 Cyclops and Corsair divide their time between surviving and fixing some advanced alien technology that they're not equipped to understand. I won't say that's a productive use of their time, but I imagine that's also a skill that'll help O5 Cyclops with the ladies down the line. The pacing of the story does start to drag somewhat here. It's hard to tell just how productive they're being. But knowing that Corsair has only so many doses of that life-saving drug left, they have plenty of incentive to not sit on their asses and whine.

That's not to say there isn't some excitement. At one point, they do have to deal with the local alien animal life on the planet. And on this planet, the skies are full of these flying blue fish with bat wings. It's not nearly as terrifying as it sounds. Earlier, Corsair did warn O5 Cyclops that he might have to resort to eating these things if he wants to survive. These creatures must have heard that because they decide to attack Corsair. No matter what planet they're on, talking about turning someone into food is kind of a dick move.

This time, it's O5 Cyclops who gets to show he's got some skill to work with. He uses his optic blasts to take down the creatures. He even admits that he let his father act as bait so he could get as many as possible with one blast. It's also somewhat of a dick move, but it does show that O5 Cyclops has been paying attention to his father's survival training. And the first rule of survival training is that sometimes a dick move is necessary to survive in a hostile environment. I have a hard time believing that women don't find a man who can survive an alien world like that wouldn't find it sexy on some levels. Corsair seems to understand this and gives his son a deserved pat on the back.

This leads to a well-deserved feast with alien flying fish as the main course. It may sound disgusting at first, eating alien creatures. Even the Ted Nugants of the world would be somewhat reluctant. But O5 Cyclops doesn't complain. He just says it tastes like chicken. Apparently, chicken is the universal taste of all undefined meats in the universe. There's something about that which makes me smile. It also makes me hungry too. It feels like a fitting way for O5 Cyclops to put his father's advice about having hope to good use. Not only did it get him to stop whining, but it got them a good meal. It shows that being a decent parent actually has more benefits than just not being a dick.

Armed with hope and a full stomach, they're finally able to fix the quantum tracker from the ship. So in the end, their efforts were pretty damn productive. They learned to effectively survive in an alien environment, living off the land and eating alien creatures. Now they're going to have to learn how to survive being "rescued" by bounty hunters. Somehow being stuck on a planet and eating alien fish birds doesn't sound so unappealing. But O5 Cyclops has already learned plenty of valuable skills from his space pirate father. This sounds like it could be yet another teachable moment. And the more O5 Cyclops learns, the more he'll have to impress Jean Grey and Emma Frost when he gets back.

Now O5 Cyclops is one step closer to becoming the man that will one day see Emma Frost and Jean Grey naked. This was another issue that provided compelling insight into O5 Cyclops as he learns and grows with his father. He's not the same whiny, confused teenager he was for a good chunk of All-New X-men. He's more vulnerable now. He sounds more like just another anxious teenager than the future leader of the X-men. This time, there was more focus on the man he would become rather than who he is now. His father's insight was a little generic, sounding like something he got from a fortune cookie. But it's not wholly inaccurate either. And for once, the value of a good father really shows in how Corsair inspired O5 Cyclops to fight for survival rather than succumb to typical teenage angst. It's a beautiful moment, even if it dragged a bit at times. It's still sad that a father has to be stranded on an alien planet with son to have a little quality time in the Marvel universe, but that doesn't make it any less meaningful. I give Cyclops #4 an 8 out of 10. With that, I'm going to KFC. For some reason, I've got a strange graving for chicken. Nuff said!

X-men Supreme Issue #102: Prison Break Part 3 is LIVE!

In many great conflicts there are no clear winners, but there are no clear losers either. Throughout the history of the X-men and Marvel Comics, some of the greatest conflicts have had incomplete or unbalanced resolutions. They don’t always end in tragedy, but they don’t end in triumph. There have been a few instances in X-men Supreme where the X-men have been victorious over the likes of the Brotherhood or the Phoenix Force. But at other points in this fanfiction series, the X-men have been unable to achieve a clean resolution. Oftentimes, this uncertainly leads to further conflict. This is the situation they find themselves in with Prison Break.

This first arc of the X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths is a fitting representation of the current conflict in this fanfiction series. The resolution that Professor Xavier arranged with help from General Grimshaw and Wanda Maximoff in wake of Magneto’s previous attack was incomplete. While it created peace between Genosha and the rest of the world and ushered in a wave of prosperity, this peace was fragile and opened the door to many new conflicts. This is how Shanobi Shaw, Colonel Wraith, and Reverend William Stryker have been able to make their move. The X-men were in a position to fight them, but they weren’t able to stop them.

This has created a volatile situation where heavy losses have already been sustained. Emma Frost has suffered the worst by far. In her effort to free herself from the grip of Sebastian Shaw, his son ended up finishing what his father started. Now two of her daughters, Sophie and Esme, are lost. But this loss is just the tip of the iceberg. The conflict that Shanobi fueled had many far-reaching implications. Now, as the dust settles in the final issue of this arc, the seeds of the next great conflict will be sewn.

X-men Supreme Issue 102: Prison Break Part 3

This first arc of X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths will set the tone for upcoming conflicts within this fanfiction series. This is the tumultuous world that X-men Supreme has become. It is not a simple matter of confronting Magneto or battling killer Sentinels. The X-men are trying to forge a new kind of peace, but now they have allies like General Grimshaw and Emma Frost. And to build upon this peace, the story will continue to expand. New and old characters alike will show up to contribute. The world of X-men Supreme will grow in a way that I hope will only make it more awesome.

But to ensure it expands in all the right ways, it’s very important that people take the time to provide feedback. I know it’s still early in X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truths, but there has been a noticeable drop in feedback already. I hope to change this in order to have enough support to continue X-men Supreme beyond Volume 5. So please, to all those who read and support this fanfiction series, post your feedback directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny Avengers #23

When it comes to comics, I sometimes have to approach them the same way I would approach a dominatrix. I know there are times when it's going to hurt, but there will also be times when it feels awesome. The challenge is sticking it out and holding on. Okay, maybe that's not the right figure of speech I should use, but it's somewhat relevant. In the same way Peyton Manning can be good for a hundred games and choke in the Superbowl, some comics can be awesome for months on and and end up taking a nose dive into a mountain of pig shit. I won't say Uncanny Avengers got that bad at the end of the Apocalypse Twins arc. I'll just say that I needed to burn a little extra incense than usual. But I still see plenty of potential in this series. Like a dominatrix with an awesome boob job, I'm willing to endure a little more. Uncanny Avengers #23 is the first issue to take place after the Apocalypse Twins arc. Rogue, Captain America, and the Scarlett Witch are alive again. Havok is still a douche, but he's way ahead of Hank McCoy after kicking Kang the Conqueror's ass. For that reason alone, I'm willing to apply a little extra lube and burn even more incense in anticipation.

The lube definitely comes in handy early on because there are definitely some plot holes to squeeze through and not in the way that is usually accomplished on the set of a gay porno shoot. It's perfectly understandable on paper. After taking on a Celestial and ripping off X-men Days of Futures Past to beat Kang, some of the Unity Team take a vacation. Nobody would blame them at all for spending a month in Tahiti drinking martinis from a hot tub full of rum. It's when they return that the extent to which Kang fucked them up starts getting confusing.

When they arrive, Captain America has somehow aged into a Martin Sheen rip-off. And Wolverine, who may or may not still have his healing factor, is somehow okay despite now having a shitty haircut. There's no explanation other than Kang just really fucked them up that good. It's like the blackout part of getting drunk and waking up with a tattoo in Chinese that nobody wants translated. It forces drunks like me to make way too many assumptions and as someone experienced in blackouts, that can be dangerous. That's not to say some parts don't make sense. Those that got directly fucked up by Kang, namely Rogue, Havok, Sunfire, and Banshee, are too fucked up to go on a vacation and the Avengers are trying to find ways to unfuck them. It's still confusing, but at least this blackout doesn't result in a nasty hangover.

There's some nice discussions here with Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, and Cap. Rather than use this as an excuse to retire early, they all seem to want to dust themselves off from this latest scrap with Kang. For some like Wolverine, who still may or may not have his healing factor, that's no harder than sleeping in the next day and taking a few cold showers. But for Sunfire, who became a disembodied hunk of fire thanks to Kang, a few showers and some bed rest just ain't gonna cut it.

For Havok, whose face now looks like he tried to go down on a porcupine, he needs a different kind of healing. First off, he's going to need that and a damn good plastic surgeon. But since he's a Summers, he could probably still get laid way more than most men. He also gets to reunite with Wasp in a moment that would be much more emotional if their entire relationship wasn't built around time travel. Their relationship is still being portrayed as more epic than it really is, which is probably the biggest plot hole of this whole story. But with enough lube, it still goes a long ways to help him heal and convey the right emotions. I still think a plastic surgeon would have been more helpful.

But the one who is most fucked up and most hung over from the party with Kang is Rogue. She was the one who had to go toe-to-toe with a fucking Celestial. In doing so, she had to absorb a fuckton of powers. That's like taking all the hard liquor on the top shelf of a bar, pouring it into a bucket, and chugging it in one gulp. It might sound badass, but it'll fuck anybody up no matter how powerful they are. For Rogue, that means Wonder Man is stills trapped inside her. And while this means she now has to worry about a guy always watching when she's taking a shit, it also means she can't touch anymore.

Now this should sound familiar to anyone who stayed sober in the 90s. This is exactly the same shit that Rogue went through when she absorbed Ms. Marvel's powers. She was super strong, super vast, and super sexy. However, she couldn't control her powers enough to touch. She probably remembers how much it sucked, only being able to have an intimate relationship with her shower head, and gets pretty pissed off. For someone who survived a fight against a Celestial, it's a unfair on the scale of the Saudi Arabian legal system. It's also pretty inane in that this shit has been done. And even though I wasn't entirely sober for a good chunk of the 90s, I really don't think this same story needs to be told again.

That's not to say that Rogue's struggle isn't compelling. There's a lot more emotion and depth put into this than the Havok/Wasp romance. It also isn't just Rogue who's struggling. Wonder Man is still trapped in her mind and as much as he enjoys being stuck in the body of a beautiful woman with a great rack, he probably prefers a form where he can effectively bang the Scarlet Witch. He's now just another voice in her head. He attempts to calm her down while she throws a classic 90s hissy fit. It almost made me want to break out my Nirvana and Pearl Jam CDs. Then I realized I don't listen to CDs anymore and just feel sad that Rogue has to go through this shit again.

The Scarlet Witch eventually catches up to Rogue before her hissy fit does too much property damage. She tries to calm her down as well and reminds Rogue that she has a pretty good incentive to help her fix this. She doesn't want to relive the 90s either. She wants to get Wonder Man out of her so they can go back to bumping uglies in ways that would make Magneto's head explode. Considering how much these two hated each other when Uncanny Avengers began, it's actually a nice moment that basically forces them to help each other in a meaningful way. It's also nice in that it still leaves the door open for some really hot Rogue/Scarlet Witch lesbo action, but my penis is getting ahead of itself. It's still a big confusing on why this played out 90s plot is happening again, but at least there's a plan to address it and not drag out it for five seasons of a cartoon series.

The emotions between Rogue and the Scarlet Witch feel genuine. The same can't really be said for Havok and Wasp. Despite Havok's face still being fucked up, he and Wasp share a tender moment alone back at the Avengers Mansion. But it's still confusing in that it gives the impression it has more depth than it actually has. This whole relationship went from playful flirting to them being married and having a kid in the future in just a few issues. Even a relationship with Taylor Swift has more backstory than that. These two don't have decades of romance to build on. Nobody is going to mistake these two for Reed/Sue or Peter Parker/Mary Jane. Hell, Peter Parker/Carlie Cooper has more emotional depth than these two. They try to come together, lamenting over their lost daughter, but it just falls flat. And that's not because I'm a callous drunk. There are just way too many gaps between flirting and being Celine Dion style in love to take it seriously.

It's almost a relief when this emotionally bland moment is interrupted by Immortus, who claims he has a way for them to get their daughter back. Unfortunately, he's not big on specifics. He just basically says what was already implied by the end of the previous arc. Kang's defeat helped secure the futures that he came close to wiping out. Now Immortus' Infinity Watch will make sure nothing fucks them up again. But none of this really explains how Havok and Wasp can get their daughter back. He just basically plagiarizes old Beatles songs and says they need to overcome their grief and keep loving each other. He might as well tell a kid that just saw his dog get run over by a truck that drawing rainbows will bring it back to life.

It's not a glaring plot hole, but it's still pretty damn confusing. I'm all for the power of love. I've listened to plenty of Bon Jovi songs. I know it's supposed to be strong and all, but it has the depth of an opinion piece on Fox News. It gives no hint about what Havok and Wasp need to do or how they're going to do it. All it does is keep trying to remind everybody that these two did not have an epic romance until recently. My short-term memory may be more fucked than my sperm count, but even I can't overlook details like that.

The only detail Immortus gives them is the detail they already had way before they considered having a kid. They need to stop the Red Skull, as if that isn't always implied in the Marvel universe. They already know he's on the loose and armed with Charles Xavier's brain. They also know from the Apocalypse Twins that he's going to really fuck things up for mutants. So did Immortus really need to give them that advice? Isn't any relationship improved by stopping the Red Skull from succeeding in anything he attmepts?

The Red Skull himself seems to understand that. Now that the Unity Team is busy fighting off their Kang-induced hangover, he's in a perfect position to exploit their weakness in a way only Nazis can. He even has a few additional resources this time, namely Ahab. Kang decided to ditch him in the past and now he thinks it's a good idea to help the Red Skull. Just typing that makes me want to roll my eyes and bang my head against my desk. However, Kang has shown that he's able to out-think even a fucking Celestial. I'm not going to discount the possibility that he could also out-think a Nazi.

This part of the story is probably the least confusing because no matter what the Red Skull is planning, it's pretty much a given that it's the kind of plan that would make the ACLU shit themselves. He's a fucking Nazi. There's really not much variation when it comes to evil plans. So for this plot, he's busting out a Nazi classic. That's right, he's resorting to concentration camps. Sure, they didn't work out well for Hitler and they kind of gave Nazis a bad name. But the Red Skull has never given many shits about bad publicity. If he's going to exploit the talents of Charles Xavier, he might as well go for overkill. Isn't that the Nazi motto after all?

This issue was more than just a little confusing. I'm won't say it's as confusing as the fourth season of Lost, but anyone who reads comics stoned like me is going to wonder if elves secretly gave them a frontal lobotomy when they weren't looking. The tone of this issue was very different compared to recent issues and rightfully so. Kang left a mess worthy of 50 college frat parties behind when he fucked with both the timeline and the Celestials. The Unity Team here isn't a team as much as it is a group of shell shocked racoons. They're all trying to pick up the pieces and the Red Skull is standing over them with a flame thrower just waiting for the perfect opportunity to broil them where they stand. There are some nice character moments, but the pacing is choppy and incoherent. The only thing that's really clear is that the Red Skull is remembering how much he enjoyed Nazi-style concentration camps. That gives this issue a sense of impact. Anytime someone thinks concentration camps are a good idea, it's a given that something fucked up is about to unfold. With AXIS on the horizon, this issue helps set the foundation, albeit unevenly. I give uncanny Avengers #23 a 6 out of 10. Rogue is having an identity crisis, the Red Skull is getting nostalgic, and Havok's career as a face model is over. That much is clear. Whether this leads to more time travel or more Celestials getting killed remains to be seen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: All-New X-men #31

There's a reason the uptight, embittered adult population of the world is weary of leaving teenagers alone. Some of it has to do with the fact that they weren't trusted to take care of themselves and have fun when they were young so naturally, they feel inclined to do that to every other teenager they come across. But most of it has to do with the paralyzing fear that they're going to fuck up in ways that can't always be attributed to alcohol. This is not a completely unfounded fear. Teenagers have neither the experience nor the understanding to make sense of how fucked up the world is, no matter how mature they tend to be. Their brains just haven't made the necessary connections. They might as well be going through life partially blindfolded. Give those teenagers superpowers and that same embittered population is prepared to shit itself. That's part of what makes All-New X-men so much fun. It's a bunch of time-displaced teenagers who are utterly ill-equipped to deal with their world trying function within it. That's like being both blindfolded, handcuffed, and pumped with crystal meth. Now the adults of the New Xavier School are getting caught up in the events of Original Sin, which means they have to leave the O5 X-men on their own in All-New X-men #31. That's like giving an unlimited supply of napalm to Michael Bay. No good can possibly come of it.

No good can also ever come from trying to make the Ultimate universe feel relevant again. It has been tried many times over the past five years and the extent of the failures involved would make Waterworld and Catwoman seem worthy of an Oscar. But the O5 X-men need to stay somewhere while the adults fuck up their own universe with another big event like AXIS so they might as well hunker down in a universe that really can't get more fucked than it already has.

To do this, there is actually a nice touch of convergence in the sense that the events of Cataclysm: The Ultimates' Last Stand is referenced. In that story, the Ultimate version of Amadeus Cho and Tony Stark discovered the gateway to 616 that Galactus used to attack their world and turn New Jersey into his personal toilet. That alone is reason enough to close the gateway, burn the plans, and nuke the ashes. But Cho, who happens to be a bald 15-year-old with three PHDs in Ultimate, is against it. Sadly, that's not even the top 10 of the most fucked up versions of an Ultimate character. At least his character doesn't involve incest. And like most 15-year-olds, it doesn't really matter what he thinks because something from the 616 side of things fucks the portal up. It has the Ultimate side of the world confused and nervous. But honestly, given how fucked they already are, how nervous can they bother to be?

From one act of convergence to another, there's also a solid transition from the events of the previous issue and from Original Sin. X-23 and O5 Angel return from their date just as the adults of the New Xavier School run off with their frienemies at the Jean Grey Institute to read Xavier's will. They have a little chat before they arrive, but it's nowhere nearly as cute or as fun as their last conversation. For one, X-23 is in more than just a pair of panties and a T-shirt. But that's not the most jarring shift sadly.

The tone considerably different compared to the bubbly teen romance shit that dominated the previous issue. X-23 insists that O5 Angel be a gentleman and not brag about how he got to see what kind of panties she wears or claim they reenacted every scene from a Ron Jeremy movie. He doesn't make any promises because it's biologically impossible for a teenage boy to be coy when he hooks up with a cute girl, but X-23 does remind him that she has adamantium claws and can kill him in a billion different ways. So I guess O5 Angel has plenty of reasons to keep his biology in check.

O5 Angel and X-23's return is met with the same fanfare as another arrest for Suge Knight. There's not a whole lot of shock or intrigue. The only one who wants the juicy details is O5 Iceman and he asks for them while X-23 is still within castration distance. I guess that's another part of teenage biology that they have to fight, being incapable of waiting when it comes to stories that might or might not involve exposed breasts. But to O5 Angel's credit, he does know that X-23 is still close enough to peel his dick like a banana if he says the wrong thing so he wisely stays quiet.

O5 Jean Grey doesn't ask for any juicy details, but she does catch up with X-23 and notes how she seems slightly less pissed off than usual. It actually leads to a nice little conversation where O5 Jean actually encourages X-23 to hang out with O5 Angel. He's a nice guy who hasn't been turned into Apocalypse's prison bitch yet. The concept of being with a nice guy is still an alien concept to X-23, but for once romantic entanglements don't result in more tension. That or I'm guess O5 Jean is just glad X-23 isn't looking to jump O5 Cyclops' bone anymore.

It's still a very different tone compared to all the high emotions that had dominated the previous issue. It also feels underdeveloped. But the mere fact that X-23 and O5 Jean are able to have a conversation without one of them threatening to stab something or eat a star shows progress in their growth as teammates. And progress for teenagers is a rare and beautiful thing. And it didn't even take an extended suspension or a night in jail either. If only my freshman year could have been this productive.

So now the O5 X-men and the rest of the teenage mutants of the New Xavier School are alone and unsupervised. At this point it's just a matter of time before something starts going horribly wrong. And once again, it begins with Hank fucking McCoy. Now to be fair to Beast (which feels like a strange concept to even think about at this point), he wasn't looking to screw something up and blame on Cyclops again. He was just monitoring Cerebro for new mutant signatures. Then for reasons that aren't explained, it goes ape-shit over a new mutant and that's reason enough for the X-men to suit up and investigate. Do they take a moment to think things through? Fuck no, that's something responsible adults might do. They entertain the possibility of informing the others, but that would require more thought than teenagers are biologically capable of so they just leave.

It's not yet clear whether this anomaly is connected to the one felt by the Ultimate side of the shit storm. But like the Cleveland Browns failing to make the playoffs, it's a pretty safe bet. This anomaly, like many unexplained anomalies, begins with a teenage girl named Carmen. She's busy taking what appears to be a school class photo, also known as a preliminary mug shot to those who attended shitty public schools. Whereas most teenagers would just try desperately not to fart or hide their boners, Carmen starts glowing like squirrel that just caught on fire and starts seeing visions of other worlds. She even starts shooting strange portals into these worlds out through her breasts, which would be so fucking sexy if one of those portals didn't lead to the Ultimate universe. Even boobs can't make that piece of shit more appealing at this point.

The poor girl is obviously confused and probably not all that concerned with any zits that might show up in her school photo. The O5 X-men and X-23 then show up and try to calm her down. Because what calms a confused teenage girl down more than seeing a bunch of other super-powered teenagers in tight spandex outfits? I'm not going to claim it doesn't work, given the irrational nature of teenage biology. I'm just going to say it's a bit of a stretch. Even so, they do manage to get Carmen to calm down. She even reveals that she has an internet connection and knows who the X-men are. But she's still a long ways away from not shitting herself.

Unfortunately, this is where the O5 X-men's inexperience is pretty damn glaring. There's nothing inherently irrational about what they're doing and for a bunch of teenagers, that's saying something. They detected a mutant in danger. They decided to go help that mutant. This is basic X-men 101 and after 50 years, nobody has an excuse for not passing that final exam at this point. But even though the O5 pioneered this tactic, they're still like Peyton Manning in his rookie year. They don't have the stats or the Superbowl ring to lean on.

The O5 do their best to not let their inexperience show. Then O5 Beast completely fucks that up by asking this scared teenage girl if she's on her period. That's like someone facing a DUI asking a female traffic cop if she's PMSing when she asks if he's been drinking. Even O5 Iceman thinks that shit is immature. Maybe Bill Murray could get away with that shit in Ghostbusters, but O5 Beast is the exact opposite of Bill fucking Murray and O5 Jean even points this out to him. I would have thrown in a psychic sledge hammer to the balls, but that's just me. I think this means they can all safely blame O5 Beast for what happens next because as soon as the cops show up, Carmen freaks the fuck out and does the mutant equivalent of PMS.

It's not as big a spectacle as it sounds and it's not nearly as bloody. It's actually pretty bland. There's just another big blue flash that's indistinguishable from the flash I probably see when I wake up after getting my stomach pumped. Then the O5 start showing up in another universe. It's a bit convenient, a mutant who just happens to have the power to send them to another universe. I still say that's not nearly as crazy a power as having a mutant that shoots out gold balls from his body, but it feels more like a plot device than an actual power. This could have just have easily been accomplished by tinkering with one of Reed Richards' old gadgets or pissing off Magik. Instead, it turned a typical X-men mission to help a mutant in need into a crossover event. It's like a traffic stop that turns into an OJ Simpson style police chase.

The first one to wake up in ultimate is O5 Iceman. Now there aren't a lot of nice places to wake up in with Ultimate that don't involve Tony Stark's guest room, but Mole Man's sewer is definitely up there in terms of shitty locations to enter this shitty universe. It's not the worst either. He could have ended up in New Jersey. But in Ultimate, every shitty circumstance is graded on a significant curve.

By comparison, O5 Jean Grey might as well have cheated on her test. She appears in the middle of the street in New York City during rush hour. That's only a slight upgrade over being trapped in Mole Man's sewer. But O5 Jean, having the power that New Yorkers stuck in a traffic jam only wish they had, is able to get away without causing a four hour traffic delay. That alone is an act of unmitigated heroism. At the same time, she's understandably confused because she was in Austin, Texas just a few moments ago. Now she's in New York and face-to-face with a version of Spider-Man that she's never encountered before. I want to say O5 Jean is a little concerned at this point. But after being abducted by the Shi'ar and mind-fucked by Charles Xavier Jr., I'm just wondering if she's going to get bored this time around.

Once again, a bunch of unsupervised teenagers have gotten themselves into a fuckton of trouble by trying to take on something they're horribly ill-equipped to take on. There are a lot of horror movies that have this kind of premise. There are also a lot of porno movies that have this same premise, but that's besides the point. This issue didn't have the O5 X-men do anything they don't normally do. A strange mutant manifested in a way that felt like the first gust in a shit storm. The O5 X-men went to investigate and help any mutant that happened to be in need. This is the shit they've been doing since aliens and lizard people teamed up to kill Kennedy. This time it just had them end up in the Ultimate universe. It's not particularly groundbreaking. Nobody is going to be picking their jaws up off the floor after reading this. But nobody is going to have much to bitch about in terms of characterization and plot structure. The tone compared to the previous issue is somewhat jarring, but not in a way that makes me want to drink more than I already do.

If the goal of this issue was to get the O5 X-men to the Ultimate universe, it succeeded. If the goal was to get them to the Ultimate universe in a novel and interesting way, it didn't. But it's still a bunch of unsupervised teenagers trying to play hero. It has plenty of entertainment value, despite the jokes about women's periods. I give All-New X-men #31 a 7 out of 10. I'm not going to say that this issue somehow justifies the way adults treat teenagers. I'll just say that when a bunch of teenagers end up in the fucking Ultimate universe when they try to strike out on their own, a little extra supervision is entirely warranted. Nuff said!