Sunday, May 30, 2010
X-men Second Coming: Blind Science - Unexpected Awesome
Every so often you see a story with a twist so unexpected it leaves you dazed, confused, and stoked at the end. It's these kinds of twists that made Lost and the Matrix such a hit despite being a huge mindfuck to the audience. Unless you've smuggled weed from Bob Marley's secret stash or soaked your brain in LSD, you won't pick up on it the first time around. In some ways X-men Second Coming: Blind Science tries to emulate that tradition although you won't need weed nearly as strong to wrap your mind around it. It is one of the one-shots that have spun out of the events of Second Coming and while the others have been fairly inconsequential in how they affect the story, this one manages to toy with reader perceptions and be pretty fucking awesome in the process.
It starts off just after the events of New Mutants 13 and before X-men Legacy 236. Fantomex, Dr. Rao, and Madison Jefferies are investigating an oil rig offshore which they suspect is part of Bastion's plan. Turns out they were right. They arrive just in time to see what looks to be a bomb about to go off. Naturally, they go into panic pants-shitting mode and Dr. Rao's life flashes before her eyes. Admittedly, it's not a very exciting life in the scope of the X-men comics, but she deserves some slack. She's pretty new to the X-books, having only been birthed by Joss Whedon during the famous Cure arc. She was kind of a douche-bag then, but she's a bit more likable now.
But just as they think they're about to die, they're saved. No, it isn't by some lame Deus Ex Machina shit where they pull a McGuiver and disarm the bomb. But it's close. They are engulfed in a strange light and transported to the future by a very human-looking Hank McCoy. Hank, being the smart guy he is calculated that this was where he needed to make a move on the time stream. Rather than go back himself and warn everybody or lift the science team sooner so they didn't ruin some perfectly good pants, he had to wait until the last minute. If you think it's cliched, it is. But there's more to it than meets the eye. Read further and that Transformers reference will make more sense.
As is often the case in the future, there little time to explain. I mean seriously, when is there ever time to explain? Hank claims he has information about the past that they need to know and in order to save the future, he needs their help. That's where the action kicks in and the science team gets a taste of some future ass-kicking. As it turns out, this latest dystopian future (as if the X-men didn't have enough) has some pretty terrifying creatures. They look every bit as nasty as they act. They're look like Blackheart fucked the four basic elements and gave birth to some monsters.
Despite their soiled pants, the science team fights back and flees with a human Hank McCoy. They end up in a lab that Hank has been holding up for a while now. There he explains they are now 30 years in the future and in the middle of a huge shit storm of trouble. Humans are pretty much dead and all mutants have been overtaken by a dark new power. The only reason Hank isn't affected is because he took Dr. Rao's cure before he could fall under the influence. Now he looks like a roadie for Metallica, but he's still the same guy and he's trying to save the world.
It's here where the book seems to give away some soul-crushing spoilers. Hank describes the battle against Bastion. The X-men confront him and wouldn't you know it? They kick his ass. Hope manifests some exotic energy powers that sadly look nothing like the Phoenix or Jean Grey. Because of this, she starts corrupting mutants and integrating them into some mindless collective. It's like the zombie apocalypse meets Days of Futures Past. It's petty terrifying and potentially disappointing because it gives away the end of the whole fucking story. So why am I not ranting about it even more? Screaming at the top of my lungs at how fucking cheap this is? Again, there's a good reason for that. Read on.
The plan is to use Dr. Rao's cure to stop the renegade Hope Summers. They need to shoot this thing into her to deactivate her powers and safe all of mutant-kind. It will probably end up killing her, but it's either her or an entire race. So despite some painful reservations, Dr. Rao cracks her knuckles and gets busy.
Her work looks like a mix of undue stress and PMS. But she finishes and the science team helps lead an assault on the complex containing Hope. When they reach her she's surrounded in energy that does have some Phoenix-like presence to it. It also has some pretty heavy psychic defenses, which would imply the power is psychic in nature. It seems to be a Jean Grey hint and there are some eerie similarities, even if it seems out of place. Again, there's a reason for that. I know I keep saying that, but bear with me just a bit longer.
In an emotional and powerful struggle, Rao and Hank fight their way towards Hope. In the presence of all that energy she looks so desperate to end it all. She's like a terminally ill patient who constantly endures stabbing pain to the eye socket who keeps begging for an appointment with Dr. Jack Kavorkian. It's a sad moment for Rao and she hesitates to deliver the cure. It's too hard for her so she gives the cure to Hank to administer.
It looks like this was where it would end. The spoilers for Second Coming would be complete. Hope's powers and role as a destroyer is revealed and the entire third act of Second Coming is rendered useless. Fans everywhere could begin their bitching and Marvel would be pelted with rotten fruit wherever they went with angry X-fans. Then something really fucked up and unexpected happens. Everything just fades away. That's not a death metaphor. Everything really just fades.
This is where the kicker comes in. It's worthy of the final scene of Usual Suspects. It turns out the science team was never even in the future. In fact, they never left the fucking oil rig! That explosion wasn't an explosion. It was a nifty piece of tech that projected a hologram similar to the Danger Room. It played out the entire scene like a movie and the science team had no idea. In many ways it's the ultimate form of being punked. If Bastion wasn't a machine, he would laugh his ass off until the end of time. Obviously, the so-called science team feels pretty stupid.
The goal was to get Rao to make the cure and give it to Graydon Creed, who put together the whole operation. It's worth noting that the plan was pretty fucking slick. They could have captured them, tortured them, and tried to force them to make the cure. But why go through all that trouble when you can just trick them into doing it? It's more efficient and good for a round of laughs at the end. It's quite possibly the perfect evil plan.
The problem with it though is that Dr. Rao wasn't a total dipshit. She figured it out before the scenario faded. She just didn't let anybody know, even Fantomex and Jefferies. So instead of her team getting punked, she punks Creed in a way that offers yet another kick-ass twist that has the reader's eyes hanging out of their sockets. That cure she made wasn't a cure. It was an incendiary. So when she gave it to Creed, she essentially gave him a ticking bomb like he was Wily Cayote. And like Cayote, he held onto it just as it exploded. Makes me nostalgic for the old Looney Toons days.
The next shot is pretty satisfying. The bomb blows up, the science team takes a minute to thumb their nose at Creed and give him the finger, and then they ditch the oil rig. They land in the water just as the fireball engulfs the rig. Now it's Creed's turn to shit his pants and the science team holds a round of cheers. They didn't solve the crisis with Bastion and Hope, but they came out on top and outsmarted their enemies just as the science team should. Unfortunately, they don't even make it through he first versus of "We Are The Champions" before that red dome overtakes the bay area. And since they're outside it, all they can do is watch and groan again. Science it seems always finds a way to fuck with them.
So there you have it. What could have been some agonizing spoilers turned into an eye-popping twist. If the readers didn't rip up the comic halfway through, they would be in for quite a treat. Now this book doesn't really do much in terms of affecting the plot of Second Coming and that's probably a good thing. It does show Graydon Creed demonstrating his trademark assholery and it shows the science team outsmarting their foes and proving they're smarter than the average egghead. It isn't the greatest mindfuck in the history of comics, but it's right up there.
It has it's share of faults. The dialogue was pretty crappy at times and there were a number of pages which were just boring ass explanations. There are at least a dozen pages that could have been cut out and the story still would have been salient. Plus, it's hard to follow at times. You may have to read it more than once to get what's going on. It works for Lost, but not for comics. In that sense Blind Science is novel and engaging, but a bit limited in the execution.
The final verdict is a bit tricky to determine, but for what Blind Science was able to do and the twist it delivered it deserves a 4 out of 5. It may not be a pivotal chapter in the Second Coming saga, but it is a fun read and will leave readers' heads spinning in the most awesome of ways. Nuff said.