Saturday, May 22, 2010

X-men Legacy #236 - Continued Legacy of Awesome

As strong as X-men Second Coming has been, it hasn't been perfectly consistent. My last two reviews of Uncanny X-men #524 and New Mutants #13 both had a healthy dose of cynicism as well as praise. But that's nothing to bang your head against the wall over. Even the best titles can't be consistent. However, there are a few that regardless of the circumstances still managed to shine with a consistent level of awesome. In the scope of Second Coming, Mike Carey's X-men Legacy is one of those rare titles and this issue shows it.

There's no subtle build-up this time. The very first few pages are like a slap across the face, a splash of liquid nitrogen, and sledge hammer to the balls. Mike Carey gets right into the action, picking up with the investigation into these mysterious oil rigs that Bastion has been tweaking lately. They don't have to investigate for very long. Before the big brains of the X-men can channel their inner Einstein, the damn thing literally blows up in their face.

The result is something that will generate one big "oh fuck" among everyone in the X-men in addition to pretty much everybody in the greater San Francisco area. These devices employ some classic comic book physics and by physics I mean the kind of impossible manifestations that you can only visualize with the aid of weapons grade LSD and hallucination mushrooms. A giant red shell of unbreakable energy forms over the entire city and traps the X-men inside. Keep in mind that they lost all their teleporters like Vanisher, Nightcrawler, Pixie, and Ariel. They even lost their X-jet. So they really are trapped. Bastion has them cornered and isn't going to let them get away. Cyclops described his strategy the best. He cut off their communications and their escape routes. Now he's free to deliver the killing blow.

Their initial response is expected. Is there any way out of this thing? Most readers will naturally scoff and say "why don't you just go underneath it?" as if it were the easiest thing int he world. Well if your average fanboy can figure that out, so can Bastion and the X-men. Cyclops wasted no time in contacting Namor to see if this barrier extends underground. Guess what? It does. It's not a dome. It's a sphere. That's Bastion 1, know-it-all fanboys 0. When he's looking to trap his enemies, Bastion takes no chances.

From this point on, Bastion has the mutants right where he wants them. So naturally he's going to get a little cocky. He basically tells his friends in the Sapien League they can put their feet up, take five, and chill back home with a tub of ice cream and some movies because the mutants are doomed. They have nowhere to hide and he's got everything he needs to take them out. He's essentially telling everyone he's got the biggest dick in the city before anybody can take off their pants and start measuring. It's more a classic kind of villainy and one that shows a great deal of confidence, if not overly so. It seems cliched, but any experienced comic leader wouldn't expect anything less.

Now something this bad is going to gain a lot of attention. It's at this point that Mike Carey does something that hasn't been done yet in the crossover. He incorporates it into the greater Marvel universe by having the Avengers show up. From the looks of it, they've already gotten a head start on the Heroic Age. It almost seems as though Carey lifted them from Avengers #1 that came out this past week as well. They basically arrive on the scene and try to break through the barrier. Thor takes a whack at it with his hammer and it doesn't even make a dent. As the science geeks explained it, this barrier is part matter and part energy. It can't be broken in the same way a slab of mud can't be broken. So the Avengers are helpless to assist the mutants and the X-men are on their own.

Now some may say that this is kind of a waste. Remember, this is an X-men comic. What the hell are the Avengers doing soaking up precious ink that could otherwise be used for X-men? Well it's another one of those little things that the insufferable douche-bags of the world often overlook. For an event this big, it would be pretty stupid for it to go unnoticed by the rest of the Marvel Universe. This brief entry not only shows that the Avengers know about it, but they try to do something and are unsuccessful. Maybe Carey had another scene in mind, but this helps clear out that hole and makes Second Coming an event that is truly a Marvel event. In that sense it's more than worth the extra ink.

While the big guns are going at it, there is still room for those important character moments that make these titles so special. In the last issue of the crossover Hope Summers admitted that she lied when she said she was ready to come back to the present. This leads to a powerful scene with Cable where he discusses the importance of the mission. At the same time he never forgets her role as guardian. He says that if she wants they can make one last time jump into the future and leave this all behind. It would mean the death of the X-men, but if she wants this then he can make it happen. Hope is left with a very difficult decision because at this point it still hasn't been revealed what's so special about her and why she's supposed to save all mutants. Even so, she makes her decision. She decides to stay.

It's an important moment for her character. Hope Summers shows that she isn't some tool. She's a real character who has very human flaws. Like all messiahs, they have doubts along the way. She's seen so much destruction happen in her name and it's only natural to have that affect her. So here she is trembling for a bit, but then sucking it up and moving forward. Fate is trying to press her down and she's kicking it in the balls. It's a very admirable act. Kind of reminds me of another certain redhead, but that's another story.

It's a great mix between character development and action. However, Mike Carey doesn't make every drop of ink count. In a very rare shift this issue had very little Rogue in it and most Carey comics give at least some screen time to demonstrate her awesomeness. She does show up here, but only in a limited capacity. All she does is have a conversation with Toad and that's about it. For someone who has given Rogue some amazing moments in this crossover thus far, it seemed a little half-assed. It was like Carey had to arm wrestle the editors or something to put Rogue on at least a few pages and it feels a little out-of-place. If he's going to use Rogue, he might as well make it meaningful and it just wasn't that meaningful here.

Meaning aside, Mike Carey saves the best moments for last as Cyclops and a team of X-men fly into the city in an effort to contain this unfolding disaster. Along the way they see a glowing ball of light that appears to have been lifted right from the Terminator movies. Seeing as how the X-men don't keep up with the movies, they go to investigate it. And guess what pops out? If you've seen Terminator you won't be at all surprised. It's a fleet of Nimrod Sentinels. For those of you who don't know their X-men history, the Nimrod Sentinels are the Terminator equivalent of the T-1000 that has spawned a bastard child with the T-X from Terminator 3. It's mean, it's nasty, and it's indestructible. One alone would be a hassle. An army would require an entire new wardrobe of underwear because you would have shit every one of them.

This sets things up perfectly for Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, who take on the next chapter in X-Force. This is right up their alley, taking on a bunch of killer robots under Bastion's control. It's the kind of over-the-top battle that sprays napalm into your skull and dumps gasoline on it. For an issue that started off with a bang, it's the perfect way to cap it off.

Mike Carey has once again proven to be the most consistent X-men writer of the Second Coming crowd. His stories and handling of the characters remains the standard by which all others are measured. He is able to get deeper both into the light and dark aspects of the X-men, making for a balance that just isn't shown in other comics. It should make writers feel secure because he's staying on board after the crossover is over while Kyle and Yost are jumping ship. In addition to his writing the art by Greg Land is a perfect compliment. It isn't the best art in the series and it is a little inconsistent at times. But it definitely works and works pretty damn well.

The whole package is sound. The last two issues may have been bumps in the road, but they're officially a thing of the past. Mike Carey has brought Second Coming back to prominence. This issue gets a stellarly awesome 5 out of 5 and an A-plus. The stage has been set for X-Force and the awesome is just screaming to be let out. X-fans everywhere would be wise to listen.

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