Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Uncanny X-men #26


We all do favors in our day-to-day lives. It’s one of the only ways human civilization can function, being able to cooperate with one another. Sure, it still leads to shitty things like wars, genocide, and reality TV, but it has helped us progress to the point where we have abundant internet porn so I won’t say it’s a total burden. But every now and then, someone will ask a favor that will make us want to choke on our own piss. And when those favors come in the form of a will from a dead loved one, that piss is more bitter than usual. That’s what the X-men have been experiencing in wake of revealing Charles Xavier’s last will and testament.

First, they found out that he secretly married Mystique. That alone was harder to swallow then ten gallons of piss. Then they find out that Xavier had been secretly monitoring a dangerous mutant named Matthew Malloy for much of his life. Never mind that he somehow managed to hide this during all the other times he was dead, evil, or MIA. I doubt those kinds of details are ever considered when shitting all over 50 years of convoluted continuity. But now that Xavier is dead, the X-men must continue what he started or their entire function as X-men is completely fucked. I’m expecting plenty of Xavier’s loved ones to be choking on plenty of piss in Uncanny X-men #25. But since this is the last will of their mentor, they might as well hold their nose and pretend it’s cheap vodka.

They might be able to take some comfort in the knowledge that Maria Hill will be drinking her share as well because she’s still trying to keep SHIELD in the mutant-policing business. After the epic clusterfuck that Dark Beast pulled them into with the Sentinels, I would think that Maria Hill would avoid mutant issues like a hypochondriac avoids a gas station toilet. But after the big fucking crater Matthew Malloy left in South Carolina, she’s going to take another swing at it. Sure, she might leave a few more craters and she admits this one of her worst nightmares that don’t involve killer clowns. But hey, nobody can accuse her of not being persistent. It’s admirable when Rocky Balboa doesn’t. Not so much when a government agency with a history of fucking up a certain issue.


I still think Cyclops would gladly trade places with Maria Hill at this point because after hearing the full extent of Charles Xavier’s will in the previous issue, he’s understandably pissed. Xavier now wants the X-men to continue his legacy of mind-fucking Matthew Malloy into not blowing everything up. Sure, that goes completely against everything Xavier taught his X-men about teaching mutants to accept who they are. But this is a case where he had to make an exception and keep it a secret from everybody. Why? I’ve given up trying to figure it out and so has Cyclops.

It’s a pretty emotional moment in that it gives Cyclops a chance to fully react to Xavier’s will. But the impact is pretty limited because Cyclops is the only one that has such a reaction. It’s not even a completely understandable. He’s pissed that Xavier would lie to them like this and wait until he’s dead to tell them. I’m not sure why he would be more pissed now than he would all the other times he’s lied. Xavier has gone behind the backs of the X-men before and he’s gone so far as to mind-fuck them. It just feels like he’s being pissed for the sake of being pissed. What makes it feel even weaker is that the rest of the team are on board with doing as Xavier asks. They pretend they’re okay with Xavier doing this. They treat it like we’ll treat boy bands one day, as one of those things we just wish never happened.


Usually, this is the perfect opportunity for Beast to do something that would make him even more of a douche. But this time, it’s Iceman who takes advantage of this opportunity and he really swings for the fences. Whereas everyone else just yells at Cyclops to go along with Xavier’s last wishes, he just keeps trying to throw in more jabs about how he murdered Xavier. Never mind that he wasn’t in control of himself. Never mind that he’s standing right next to Wolverine, a guy who murdered his own son without the influence of the Phoenix. Never mind he’s standing next to Beast, who has helped murder entire universes. He just has a permanent rage boner for Cyclops and only Cyclops.

Iceman swings for the fences with his douche-baggery on this one. Everyone else is more understanding in getting Cyclops to go along with Xavier’s will. Firestar even shows sympathy, noting just how tortured Cyclops is. She has this thing called empathy. Iceman clearly never even heard of it because when everyone else asks what he would do, he actually says he hopes Cyclops dies in battle. That sounds like the kind of shit seen on a 4chan message board, not from someone who was once Cyclops’ friend. It puts Iceman into a whole new world of douche that even Beast has never entered. I thought nobody could be as big an asshole as Beast, but Iceman just made him his prison bitch.


All this outrage and douche-baggery still centers around Matthew Malloy, who is probably the least douchy character in this conflict. For a guy who just blew up an entire town and killed thousands of people, that’s saying something. It helps that he does come off as sympathetic. He doesn’t understand what’s happening with him. He’s still trying to figure out his powers. With Xavier having suppressed them for so long, he might as well be a 12-year-old trying to play quarterback in the NFL. The problem is he still doesn’t have much personality. He’s just perpetually shell-shocked the whole time. Given the circumstances, that’s understandable. But it still makes him feel like more a prop than a character.


Shell shocked or not, he’s still at the top of Maria Hill’s shit list. Since Cyclops was once at the top of that list, that’s not saying much. To her credit, she does try to do more than just throw bombs or killer robots at the problem. She’s not John McCain. So in an effort to be a little smarter, she enlists help from Exodus and Headlok, who happen to be part of SHIELD’s psi division. Not even sure how long they’ve had that because it sure as hell would’ve come in handy when Dark Beast was screwing them over. But I digress.

They make a concerted effort to attack Matthew psychically, just as Charles Xavier had done. Since SHIELD has no psychic on the level of Charles Xavier, it doesn’t turn out very well. It turns out like most government operations turn out, but it does yield one important detail. Matthew is a mutant. That means SHIELD has to deal with mutants again. It also means that Maria Hill will be having more nightmares about mutants. On the other hand, some of those nightmares might involve Cyclops so that means she’ll at least get a few wet dreams out of it. Not saying it balances everything out, but it’s something.


It’s setting up for a powerful convergence between SHIELD and the X-men on Matthew. That’s why it’s more than a little jarring and disappointing when another unrelated side-plot enters the picture. It’s not related to Xavier, Matthew Malloy, or secret marriages. It’s just the New Xavier students training with the Cuckoos in the Danger Room in a scenario that pits them against the Avengers. It’s not even that novel because they actually faced the Avengers earlier in the series when they tried to arrest Cyclops and he told them to piss off. Since they don’t have Cyclops do to that with this simulation, they’re understandably inept. I know they’re teenagers, but this wasn’t supposed to be a story about how inept teenagers are against the Avengers. It’s supposed to be about the last will and testament of Charles Xavier. That or somebody got way too stoned when they made the solicits for this.


As out-of-place it might be, it does lead to a meaningful conversation between Triage and the Stepford Cuckoos. Triage rightly points out that training to fight the Avengers sort of has some unpleasant implications. The Avengers are supposed to be the good guys. That’s how the world sees them. That’s how their PR team keeps it, even if some of them secretly meet to destroy other universes from time-to-time. So if they ever did fight them, then that would make them villains by default. It doesn’t matter if it’s overly simplistic. Triage understands that the people of this world have minds organized like Fox News in that overly simplistic explanations are the only acceptable explanations. The Cuckoos paint it a different way, saying they’re training to protect themselves. But Triage still isn’t buying it.


It’s not clear if anyone wins the argument, but Triage does seem to get his point across. Nobody seems to know what Cyclops’ “mutant revolution” is supposed to look like. Just preparing to fight the Avengers sets a bad precedent. Now that’s not to say he’s completely right here. Cyclops actually went to a rally in a previous issue and told everybody that the Avengers aren’t the enemies. He hasn’t tried to fight them. They come to him. But it’s something nobody talks about or thinks about. It gives the impression that there really is no clear understanding about Cyclops’ mutant revolution at this point. It would be so much more relevant if it actually fit cohesively into the ongoing story about Xavier’s will. Instead, it just reminds everybody that they really have no idea what the fuck Cyclops has planned for them in the long run.


Nobody seems to have a plan on dealing with Matthew Malloy either. That’s what makes this glorified student debate feel even more out-of-place. As the X-men are making their way towards Matthew, SHIELD shows up and basically tells them what they already know. They don’t wait until they can enter the story in an interesting way. They just catch up in time for Beast to tell them how fucked they are. It’s probably the longest Beast has ever gone without being a total douche. He just tells them that Matthew Malloy’s mutant signature reveals that he’s powerful enough to consume an entire state and shit out the entrails. Again, this is shit we already know and don’t need to be reminded of. Even I don’t smoke that much pot.


This issue really didn’t accomplish much other than make me want to punch Iceman in the jaw and kick him in the balls. I honestly thought only Beast was capable of being more of a prick, but Iceman just joined him in the douche-bag Hall of Fame. Thankfully, nobody else had a chance to carve their own bust because the plot really stalled. All they did was react to Xavier’s will and that’s about it. Matthew Malloy is still a walking death machine. Maria Hill is still enduring migraines over all mutant-related issues. The only really compelling part of this story was the debate with Triage and the Cuckoos. But given the circumstances of the story, it felt really out of place. If it’s supposed to be a prelude to the upcoming AXIS event, then it’s the comic book equivalent of premature ejaculation and that’s not enjoyable for anyone. Uncanny X-men #26 gets a 5 out of 10. I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to add another name to my list of characters I want to drop kick into a vat of cat piss, but Iceman has joined Beast as permanent members on that list. And I really don’t like having people I have the urge to beat up while I’m sober. Some just do way too much to deserve it. Nuff said!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: All New X-men #32


We’ve all ended up in shitty places for reasons we don’t always understand or remember. And I’m not just talking about cases that involve going out for a night of drinking in one city and waking up in another time zone with a transvestite hooker and two Thai twins. There are cases where we leave with a certain destination in mind and a fairly clear understanding on how to get to it. Then somewhere along the way, we’ll get side-tracked for reasons that range from deranged serial killer in a hockey mask to shitty Google Map directions. For the O5 X-men, they set out on a trip to South Beach, but ended up in the Downtown Detroit that is the Ultimate Universe. Some might call it a not-so-subtle way to keep the O5 X-men from interfering with the events of AXIS. Others might call it a bullshit way to make the Ultimate seem less fucked than it really is. Both might be right to some degree, but there’s no question that their visit to Ultimate is going to suck because Ultimate tends to fuck over anyone not named Miles Morales or Kitty Pryde. I can only hope that throughout the pages of All-New X-men #32, the O5 X-men keep their assholes clenched as tightly as possible.

The asshole most vulnerable from outset is O5 Angel and not just because he’s banging Wolverine’s clone/daughter. After the team got sucked into dimensional rift emanating from a teenage girl, which might or might not be a metaphor for a nasty divorce, he ended up in the Savage Land. That alone is pretty shitty because it means he’s never far from a big pile of T-Rex shit. But what makes it even shittier is that the first Ultimate character he encounters is Jimmy Hudson, aka the laziest Wolverine rip-off character in history. Unlike X-23, they don’t become fast friends and try to bone. O5 Angel reacts the same way I would, basically saying, “I would rather be Daken’s prison bitch than hang around you, Mr. Wolverine-With-Dyed-Hair!”

I don’t mean to be too harsh on Jimmy Hudson, but he’s quite symbolic of why the Ultimate Universe has sucked more than Paris Hilton at a dildo factory. He represents the breadth of the pathetic efforts made to replace all the dead characters in Ultimate. Unlike X-23 and Daken, Jimmy has absolutely nothing going for him. He’s just a de-aged Wolverine, minus the badass history and the competence. Unlike Daken and X-23, he can’t be easily picked out of a lineup. He’s basically a poster boy for Ultimate’s policy of, “Let’s trade good characters for shitty replacement characters and act surprised when nobody gives a shit!” But I digress.


O5 Beast appears in a less shitty setting. Sure, that setting includes hungry sharks, but I’ll gladly deal with sharks before dealing with Jimmy freakin’ Hudson. And unlike O5 Angel, he’s able to keep his cool. He’s able to escape the sharks and wind up on a nice beach. Compared to the Savage Land, he might as well have woken up in Jessica Alba’s pool while she was sunbathing nude. It still gets a little awkward when he encounters a nice couple trying to share a romantic moment and hopefully get in a little Spring Break style beach boning. But of course, O5 Beast cock-blocks them. He’s still able to find out that he’s somewhere around the cost of Turkey. Again, there are worst places he could be and I imagine the couple found another place to get their freak on.


It’s only slightly less awkward for X-23. She winds up appearing in the middle of a football field in the middle of a game. The fact that she’s fully clothed is probably a relief to everyone at the stadium. Or maybe it isn’t. I’m kind of torn in that respect. But being pig-headed football players who are just a few concussions away from being Billy Madison style retarded, they try to attack her and X-23 responds in a way that would make Wolverine proud. Sure, that pisses off the players and scares the shit out of the audience. But after the shitty news the NFL has dealt with regarding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, I imagine it’s still an upgrade.

Their reaction also reveals something else about the shitty state of the Ultimate universe that cannot be overlooked. It really fucking sucks for mutants. By that I mean mutants are treated the same way gays are treated in Saudi Arabia. Magneto basically ruined any chance mutants would ever have at peace. Now their whole population is relegated to a glorified Indian Reservation in the desert. So yeah, mutants are that fucked and that’s a big reason why Ultimate has been so shitty. I know 616 has put mutants in some shitty positions since Avengers vs. X-men, but it’s Disney World compared to Ultimate.


That’s probably not going to give O5 Iceman much comfort because he winds up in the second shittiest setting after O5 Angel. I guess the karma his asshole older counterpart has built up decided to bite him and send him right into the heart of Mole Man’s domain. Unlike some other Ultimate characters, Mole Man isn’t too different from his 616 counterpart in that he’s still the same creepy-as-hell sewer dweller. He hasn’t really done much to make himself shittier in Ultimate, which is saying a lot in and of itself. So naturally, he doesn’t do anything too outrageous when he throws his army of mud-people at O5 Iceman. If only his older self could be present. He would deserve all the shit in every sewer they throw at him.


All these various reactions are well and good, but fairly generic. It doesn’t really answer any burning questions about where they are, how they got there, or who that girl was that O5 Beast made ridiculously uncomfortable. That’s not a bad thing because they should have time to react to being in a new universe. That’s not the kind of shit anyone can shrug off. But at some point, the story does have to move forward.

This finally happens in some capacity with O5 Jean and Miles Morales. These two crossed paths at the end of the previous issue and makes for an awkward yet productive conversation. The events of Cataclysm are referenced, which might make some readers queasy. But it does provide a decent context. O5 Jean eventually skips the part where Miles gives her the full scope and scale of how much Ultimate sucks and reads his mind. For anyone who hasn’t been following Miles Morales in Ultimate, it’s a nice way to catch up. Miles is pretty much the only part of Ultimate that isn’t a steaming pile of elephant diarrhea so if nothing else, it’s a nice teaser.


Once the awkwardness subsides, O5 Jean is able to understand just how fucked up her situation is. She’s in an alternate world that Galactus recently tried to devour. She only knows what Miles knows, but she probably understands to some extent that this world sucks. And because she knows what Miles knows, she also understands that he has visited her world before (again, see Cataclysm for those who don’t have a weak stomach) so she’s not completely screwed. Miles being Miles decides to help her. I imagine he’s also eager for an excuse to explore a world that doesn’t suck nearly as much as Ultimate. Plus, he’s in a position to cop a feel with Jean Grey. That’s always a nice bonus.


It’s also a nice bonus whenever X-23 gets to steal a motorcycle and run from the police. In Ultimate, she doesn’t have to worry about hurting the X-men’s image. They’re already fucked to the point where no fluff peace on CNN will redeem them. So she can afford to be a lot more reckless when being chased by an army of cops. The way they treat her, she might be mistaken for a young black man in New York City with one too many marijuana cigarettes. Again, it’s a nice sign of just how fucked mutants are in Ultimate while giving them plenty of incentive to get back to their world. Even if it is full of time-displaced characters and angry cosmic forces, it’s still an upgrade over this shit.


However, that doesn’t apply to every part of Ultimate. Some parts are just as fucked as 616. O5 Beast finds this out the hard way that he’s not in Turkey. He’s in fucking Latveria. That’s only slightly less shitty than winding up in North Korea. He still tries to be friendly. In Latveria, I’m pretty sure that’s a misdemeanor. For that reason, it doesn’t take long for the Doombots to show up. The sad thing is the same thing would’ve happened if he had visited Latveria in 616. Doombots are to Latveria what goofy mascots are to Disney World. I want to feel bad for O5 Beast. I really do. But after asking a teenage girl if she’s on her period in the previous issue, I think this is a fitting act of comic book karma.


It’s not so fitting that the help Miles tries to get O5 Jean isn’t there when they arrive. It’s another act of convergence in that he brings her to the same place where Amadeus Cho (who for some reason is a bald 15-year-old child prodigy in Ultimate) has been studying the gateway into 616. That gateway closed for reasons not explained in the last issue. And because of that, SHIELD did what so few government agencies do and said, “Fuck it, we’re cutting your funding.” I guess Cho needed to employ better lobbyists or make friends with the Koch brothers. It makes for a sad moment for O5 Jean because Cho says outright that without the gateway, she’s stuck in Ultimate. And just like that, being dead in 616 doesn’t sound so horrible. It could only have been crueler if she had been sent to a universe where Cyclops is married to Wolverine and Emma Frost is empress of the world.


So after the O5 X-men’s first issue in the walking shit stain that is the Ultimate Universe, everybody’s asshole is still intact. Nothing too fucked up happened that hasn’t already happened to the X-men in some capacity. Being transported to another universe? Ending up in the Savage Land? Being chased by cops? Shit, that’s just Tuesday for the X-men. And maybe that’s the best anybody can hope for in anything involving Ultimate these days. The whole premise of this issue basically amounted to, "Oh shit! We’re in another universe!" It put all the O5 X-men in some uncomfortable situations, but none that will make anyone want to shit cinderblocks, as many Ultimate stories are prone to do. There are a lot of teasers about the kind of shit storm the O5 are in for. Some are more appealing than others. That appeal earns All-New X-men #32 a 7 out of 10. The story doesn’t move forward by much, but it does so without pouring any napalm on the burning corpse that is Ultimate. And in this day and age, that counts as a win. Nuff said!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Girl, Her Dog, and So Much More: Ms. Marvel #8

The following is my review of Ms. Marvel #8, which was posted on PopMatters.com.


The disparity in thought process between teenagers and adults is like the disparity between Eagles fans and Cowboys fans. It's so vast in so many ways that there's little chance of reconciliation. It's not just because of hormones, high school, and acne either. Teenagers still see the world through an untainted, inexperienced set of eyes. Adults see the world through eyes that have been jaded by a potent combination of age, struggle, and harsh reality. Teenagers basically live on a perpetual beer buzz while adults live in a perpetual hangover.

It's this disparity that allows a teenager to see a dog as just the most adorable creature since the Olson Twins whereas an adult sees it as just another chore between paying bills and mowing the lawn. It also serves as a defining moment in Ms. Marvel #8 that further reinforces Kamala Khan's title as Marvel's most lovable teenage superhero. She's still very new to this world of supervillains, superpowers, and alien dogs. But she still sees that world with the kind of wide-eyed optimism of someone who has not yet had to deal with the DMV or the IRS.

This untainted view of the world has been one of the many reasons Ms. Marvel has been a breath of fresh air from the brooding and bickering that has plagued so many adult heroes. Kamala hasn't had time to develop a deep, dark secret that makes her so jaded that she resorts to making deals with Mephisto. She's still just a kind, caring teenage girl who wants to do good in the world without understanding how easily the world complicates good deeds. She spent many early issues just establishing herself as a hero, making some pretty big mistakes and dealing with family issues along the way. Now she has become that hero and others have taken notice.

After her first ever team-up with Wolverine, the Inhumans have taken notice of this lovable teenage girl from Jersey City. That's what brings Lockjaw into the picture. Where others see a big, hulking, monstrosity of a dog, Kamala Khan sees her new favorite pet. And it just so happens that her new favorite pet is a big help in her ongoing battle against the Inventor. However, it's through this fight that Kamala's rosy worldview of heroes and villains becomes complicated.

Lockjaw acts as an enabler of sorts, allowing Kamala to do more than most 16-year-olds with a 9:00 pm curfew and no car. In some ways it's necessary because to this point, Kamala's resources have been limited to her friend, Bruno, and information that can be easily Googled. This was still enough to help her rise to the top of the Inventor's hit-list, but she needs more if she's to be the reigning champ of that list. That's exactly what Lockjaw does, allowing Kamala to get to where the action is and be the superhero she wants to be. It proves useful, but it also has the effect of having a diabetic live next door to a Baskin Robbins.

Thanks to her new pet, Kamala is able to take part in the kind of superhero action that exists on every other page of a Wolverine comic. In the previous issues, she got to fight a giant alligator. Now she gets to fight a giant robot. For a superhero, that's akin to a teenager's first car. But for Kamala, she ends up running over a few cones because the Inventor takes advantage of her inexperience. He exposes the drawbacks of seeing the world through such rosy glasses and it didn't even involve having to clean up after Lockjaw.


It's a lesson every experienced superhero and adult learns at some point. It's not enough to just confront problems. They need to be confronted carefully and thoroughly. Teenagers see them as problems that can be solved easily with fists, trash talk, or just blocking them on Facebook. But the Inventor isn't a problem that can be blocked. As competent as Kamala is at attacking giant robots, she's not as competent when it comes to out-thinking her enemy. She doesn't even notice until its too late. Like a tax return she thought she paid, it comes back to bite her.

It leads to Kamala being more vulnerable than she's been at any point in her brief superhero career. It's a moment where she has to take off those rosy glasses through which she sees the world and realize that this is serious. She's messing with someone who isn't afraid to hit her when she's out of costume and surrounded by friends. She basically took out a loan from Tony Soprano and now he's back to collect. It overwhelms Kamala in a way she hasn't experienced to date and for a girl who recently fought a giant alligator and spent a day with Wolverine, that's saying something.

She goes from a lovable teenage girl with a new pet dog to an overwhelmed teenage girl who gets in over her head. Yet somehow, Ms. Marvel #8 manages to maintain the same strong themes that have helped make it so enjoyable. Even as Kamala learns the hard way that being a superhero means occasionally leading a killer robot right to her school, it's still a fun, spirited narrative. There's never a sense that Kamala is about to become an overly jaded teenager with one too many body piercings. Previous issues have firmly established the wonderful girl she is. That's what makes these new complications she faces so compelling.

Ms. Marvel #8 is yet another step in the process of Kamala Khan becoming a superhero. She's had her first major battles. She's fought her first killer robot. She's had her first team-up with Wolverine. She's dealt with complicated family issues. Now she has to learn to deal with the larger complications that come along with being a superhero. And this is all in addition to having a new pet in Lockjaw. She's had to deal with a lot in such a brief span, but the manner in which she deals with it is part of what makes her so much fun.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

Friday, September 12, 2014

X-men Supreme Issue #103: Shifting Tides is LIVE!


We're only a few issues into X-men Supreme Volume 5: Dark Truth and already there has been plenty of upheaval. The X-men are dealing with a new world that is build on a fragile peace with plenty of dark forces looking to shatter it. The treaty with Genosha has fueled an economic boom that is keeping conflict between humans and mutants at bay. But the Prison Break arc revealed just how easily that conflict could escalate. While the X-men were able to prevent the likes of Shanobi Shaw from undermining this treaty, they've also experienced just how cunning their enemies can be. The X-men Supreme fanfiction series has introduced plenty of crafty enemies for the X-men to take on. Now they're about to go up against one that knows how to hit them on a profoundly personal level.

While every enemy the X-men have encountered create deeply personal conflicts in their own right, few have struck with as much force as Sinister. This man made his clashes with Cyclops and Jean Grey a family affair in the Sinister Intent arc, as well as The Good, The Bad, and the Sinister arc. He's also found ways to torment characters like Rogue and Wolverine on a very personal level. While he hasn't confronted the X-men in a while, I did hint at the end of X-men Supreme Volume 4: Politics of Fear that he was up to no good again. And like his previous conflicts, it's safe to assume he'll find a way to make this one very personal for the X-men.

Of the many personal issues that the X-men deal with, the issues between Rogue and Gambit have been mired in some of the most unique complications. For that reason, their issues haven't really gotten the spotlight in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series. It also doesn't help that Gambit is dating Psylocke at the moment, but this relationship also is mired in plenty of issues, many of which are linked directly to Rogue. Now Sinister is set unleash a new round of complications that are sure to evoke plenty of personal issues. It's the kind of relationship drama that has made X-men such a compelling and successful mythos. And I look to continue that spirit here in the X-men Supreme fanfiction series.

X-men Supreme Issue 103: Shifting Tides

There's a whole host of new conflicts just on the horizon for the X-men. Expect this fanfiction series to explore new territory that cannot be found in the comics, movies, cartoons, or anything else. As X-men Supreme continues to evolve, I'll continue finding ways to make it more unique. That'll especially show with the way I develop things between characters Gambit and Rogue. I know that these characters have some very passionate fans. I also know that X-men fans in general are very sensitive to how their favorite characters explore new stories. For that reason, I strongly encourage everyone to take the time to review and provide feedback for each issue of X-men Supreme. I know I say that a lot, but it's always worth repeating. Either post it directly in the issue or contact me directly. Either way is fine. Thank you very much to those who have reviewed and I hope others follow your example. Until next time, take care and best wishes. Excelsior!

Jack

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Magneto #9


What goes into turning a villain into a hero? Is it a long, arduous journey of redemption? Are there any possible shortcuts on such a journey? These are all questions that relate to Magneto’s journey since he joined the X-men after the Utopia arc. At one point, he was having a beer with Sinister and Apocalypse on Sundays. Then he was bowing before Cyclops, professing his loyalty to the X-men. After Avengers vs. X-men, he decided to say, “Fuck it, I’ll be heroic on my own goddamn terms.” Those terms often included hunting down both humans and mutants who enjoyed tormenting innocent mutants and making them tie horrible, painful deaths. So I guess it’s safe to say his journey to become a hero is incomplete. But there is one tried and true shortcut towards turning anyone into a hero. When in doubt, have them fight a Nazi.

That’s what the X-men and the Marvel universe are about to face. The upcoming events of Avengers and X-men: AXIS promise to pit the X-men against the Red Skull, now armed with the telepathy of Charles Xavier. This is a guy who does not care much for peace and understanding. He’s more a war, genocide, and concentration camp kind of guy. He’s also the ultimate enemy for Magneto, someone who directly suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Now Magneto #9 is set to be the prelude to this event and Magneto gets to throw the first punch. Will that make him a hero? It’s hard to say, but anyone who fights a Nazi can’t be too big a villain.

It also helps if that fight takes place in a classic Nazi-style concentration camp. It just wouldn’t be sufficiently Nazi-like if concentration camps weren’t involved somehow. And this one helps add a personal touch for Magneto’s fight because it’s on Genosha, an island that he used to rule. Then it became nothing more than an exposed mass grave where 16 million mutants died. It’s the second worst transformation of a once prosperous locale after Detroit. And since Genosha isn’t tainted with enough mutant blood, it is now the sight of a new Nazi-style concentration camp for mutants. Because when a Nazi wants to commit an atrocity, they just love making it personal.


Magneto, as hardened as he might be, shows more emotional range than Sharon Stone for once. When he sneaks into the camp, he finds out that it’s every bit as bad as the concentration camp he grew up in and then some. As soon as he enters, the first thing he sees is a pile of dead bodies. And it’s not just mutants either. Inhumans have also been thrown into the furnace because why not? It’s not like Nazis are that picky when it comes to slaughter. How Magneto can tell the difference isn’t revealed. I guess he has the mutant equivalent of gaydar or something.

Regardless of whether they’re mutant or inhuman, the gruesome nature of these atrocities gets the point across. Magneto, as a character, has always been defined by the scars left on him by the holocaust. And who can blame him? The holocaust was by far one of humanity’s worst moments. Even at my most drunk, there’s no way I can joke about something that horrific. I can say that it gives Magneto plenty of good reasons for being the asshole he is. Hell, who wouldn’t hate humanity on some level if they went through what he did?


But it’s not enough for him to just be horrified at the atrocities being committed in the presence. Like many previous issues, the extent of Magneto’s righteous rage is given greater context through a few grim flashbacks. Naturally, being in a new concentration camp sparks memories of his time spent in a similar camp. He doesn’t remember them fondly to say the very least. He recalls how he used to have to feed dead bodies into a furnace. And keep in mind, he’s still a kid at the time. Parents today bitch and moan about kids seeing Janet Jackson’s nipple during the Superbowl. This kid was witnessed Nazi atrocities. I think there’s room for perspective here.

While I’m sure every day was shitty in a concentration camp, Magneto specifically recalls one particular Nazi who liked to feed dead bodies to the furnace just to keep warm. He’s like an insomniac who can’t sleep unless somebody he hears the cries of a dying puppy next to his bed. Naturally, Magneto wanted this Nazi, named Hitzig, to die a terrible death and he began training with his powers to do it. And there’s no question he would deserve it.


The flashback helps give greater perspective in the present in that it reveals the heavy burdens Magneto has shouldered over the years. At times it makes him sympathetic. Most of the time it just makes him understandably pissed off and a very unpleasant person to be around. And unlike a lot of assholes who try to use the shitty parts of their lives as an excuse, Magneto freely admits that it’s an excuse. That alone puts him above most of the bankers on Wall Street.

Armed with this perspective, he catches up with a couple of young women who are unlucky enough to be residents of this little slice of Hell. He offers to free them, but they’re too fucking terrified to risk it and for good reason. They reveal to Magneto that the man behind this new concentration camp is none other than the Red Skull. Not only that, he’s armed with the brain of his former bestie, Charles Xavier. It’s by far the worst of all circumstances that don’t involve resurrecting Hitler himself. For that reason, Magneto doesn’t hold it against them when the girls chicken out. They would rather suffer than confront the fucking Red Skull and sadly, that’s probably a good way for them to stay alive.


It leads to another flashback by Magneto. He’s still a boy who has been plotting to kill this Nazi, Hitzig, the same way most boys plot to steal candy. He’s been training himself, using his powers to manipulate any metal he can find. But when the opportunity finally comes along for him to kill Hitzig, he fails. He doesn’t even get other chances. He reveals that he failed and someone else had to kill Hitzig, which meant he was able to live longer and torment more innocent people along the way. That’s a heavy burden for a kid to carry and one he still carries as an adult. And to think most adults feel their first day of high school was a heavy burden to carry.

It’s another powerful insight in a series that has had plenty. These flashbacks, combined with Magneto’s inner thoughts have given him more dimensions as a character than he’s had at any point since the early 90s. He doesn’t pretend to be a hero. He doesn’t carry himself as a villain either. He’s Magneto. He’s in his own unique category. He’s not some character that can be replaced by any other villain who had a shitty childhood. There aren’t a lot of characters that can make that claim and that’s a big part of what makes his struggle so awesome.


Armed with this burden, he continues to probe deeper into the concentration camp. It’s still pretty typical Nazi-style horror. There are cramped barracks, death marches, and deplorable conditions that make downtown Detroit look like the Beverly Hills. It helps add even more incentive for Magneto to horribly maim the Red Skull in ways befitting of a Nazi. It’s actually a lot less complex compared to his previous struggles in this series. There’s really not much complexity to battling Nazis. Even so, it does change the style of the series somewhat, but not in a way that makes it less enjoyable.


Magneto manages to get close enough to the Red Skull to strike in the same way he did with Hitzig. He muses how killing the Red Skull would be a reprieve of sorts for not killing Hitzig because this guy could inflict more torment than 100 Hitzigs. I think karma would definitely balance itself out in that respect. Unfortunately, Magneto doesn’t get to find out because like Hitzig, he fails to kill the Red Skull. But he shouldn’t feel too bad about it. Captain America has failed to kill this asshole any number of times.

That failure comes at the hands of the Red Skull’s S-men. They were introduced in the first arc of Uncanny Avengers. They are his Nazi style X-men apparently. Why he deems them fit to serve while other mutants are fit for the gas chamber is not explained. Again, he’s a Nazi. His hatred is purely arbitrary. But these are powerful beings that fought the Uncanny Avengers to a draw. Magneto really has no fucking chance against these guys with his broken powers.


That still doesn’t stop him from trying. Not many people get this close to the Red Skull who aren’t named Steve Rogers. Even with broken powers, Magneto makes a valiant effort with all the metal he can find. It’s not much of a spectacle, but it’s still a full-blown confrontation between Magneto and the ultimate Nazi. How could it be anything other than awesome?

Well, he does sort of find a way. Despite all the build-up and talk about burdens and disgust, this confrontation is pretty damn muted and not just because Magneto is under-powered. These two really say anything to add weight to the battle. The Red Skull just points out Magneto is fighting an old war and he’s trying to fight a new one. It’s really not clear what that means. He might as well have said his helmet makes him look like an uncircumcised dick.


In the end, the Red Skull really doesn’t do or say much. He doesn’t even taunt Magneto about stealing Charles Xavier’s brain. He just walks away while his S-men take care of him. Magneto even admits he fucked up the same way he fucked up with Hizrig. It’s still way too underwhelming for a typical Magneto vs. Nazis style battle. It has some emotional depth when one of the girls from earlier show up. But there isn’t much else beyond that. Magneto is definitely in over his head and the Red Skull is enjoying himself way too much. And any story that ends with a Nazi feeling that content just doesn’t feel right.


There was nothing subtle about this story. It didn’t have the same twists and turns as previous issues in this series. This time, the setup was very simple. Magneto infiltrates a mutant concentration camp, recalls his own experiences with concentration camps, and attempts to horribly murder the asshole responsible for said concentration camp. There’s no subtlety with the villain either. It’s the fucking Red Skull. He’s the perfect Nazi. There’s no Walter White style complexity to his character. He’s just a sadistic Nazi asshole to the highest degree.

This simplicity was a change of pace, but still very satisfying. It showed Magneto being the same Magneto that has been developing since this series began. The insight of his thoughts and his interactions with others continues to give this book a uniquely uber-Magneto feel. The problem is not much is really accomplished this time. He fights the Red Skull and he loses. He doesn’t show the same cunning he’s shown in previous battles. To be fair, this is the fucking Red Skull we’re talking about here so I’m not going to bust his balls too much for it. I’ll just give Magneto #9 a 7 out of 10 and say it provides a great backdrop for another Magneto vs. Nazis type story. Sure, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Wolfenstein, and the History Channel done the Nazi thing to death at this point. That doesn’t mean we should take less pleasure in rooting for those who try to give them the sadistic death they deserve. Nuff said!