Saturday, June 26, 2010
X-men Second Coming: X-men Legacy #237 - Waning Awesome
For a series that started off so strong, X-men Second Coming has been withering slowly in act three just like Jennifer Aniston's acting career. What made the story so strong was how well it flowed. From issue to issue, the pace was steady and the action, characterization, and emotions all came together nicely. That's not an easy thing to do when four separate writers are working on this beast, but if the succeeded in the first two acts then why not the third? First there was Uncanny X-men #525 with Matt Fraction, which spoiled the momentum. Then came Zeb Wells with New Mutants #14, which failed to regain that momentum. Now if ever there was an X-men writer who could get this eagle soaring again, it's Mike Carey. If the X-men writers were the A-Team, Mike Carey would be Hannibal. So there were high hopes for X-men Legacy #237 and while it wasn't an epic fail, the series is still limping like Rickey Martin's dick at the Playboy Mansion.
The first page starts things off pretty strongly. In the previous issue, every mutant on Utopia had their backs against the wall with the Nimrod Sentinels coming down on them like Al Gore on the CEO of BP. They needed a game-changer and they got one in Magneto, who has been out of commission due to the events of Uncanny X-men #522. He took himself off the bench here and let loose on the Nimrod sentinels. For a guy so old he should be shitting in bags in a retirement home by now, he kicks some serious ass. The problem is he does it on only one page. Seriously, how does Carey and Greg Land expect us to appreciate Magneto's badassery in one page?
From there, the story makes a sloppy transition to X-Force in the future. It is the first of what will become many sloppy transitions, making this comic flow about as well as a constipated rhino. It's not the kind of storytelling you would expect from Mike Carey, but for what it's worth he does flesh out the scene pretty well. He has X-Force trying to make a dent in Mastermold and failing miserably while Cable and Cypher are trying to attack the brain of this behemoth. It's a pretty badass scene, especially for Cypher who isn't known for having balls of steel. But he manages to really step up and dive head first into Mastermold's head. Contrary to popular perceptions, the mind of a machine is pretty damn cool and Greg Land really does capture the moment with his unique style.
Another bumpy transition later, and we're back in the present with the X-men kicking ass on the Golden Gate bridge. For all intents and purposes they're still pretty screwed. Much of what was shown the last two issues holds true here. The Nimrods are beating down on the X-men like they're Mexicans in Arizona. Last issue it was Colossus who got singled out. This time it's Storm, who puts up a little more of a fight and shows why she shouldn't have been married off to Black Panther and thrust out of the X-men. But I'd rather not go off on that rant.
While Storm does get humbled, she doesn't get humiliated the way Colossus did. Before the Nimrods can turn the queen into a joker, Hope Summers shows up (you know, the so-called mutant messiah this whole crossover is about who has had a grand total of 2 pages in the past two comics? Still not ringing any bells?) and she's packing a big fucking gun from the 28th century. And with this big fucking gun she goes Rambo on the Nimrod sentinels with Rogue playing the backup John McClane type role. For a girl who's still a teenager, it's pretty badass and way overdue.
Hope's presence helps tip some of the balance on the bridge (although Cyclops looks pretty damn pissed about it). Cut to another sloppy transition and we're back on Utopia with Magneto. Somehow, it feels as though these pages should have been added to the one at the beginning because it picks up fairly closely to where that page left off. Magneto is fighting off the Nimrod sentinels. Not much is said, just that the Nimrods detect his power levels way below what they should be. So they understandably get the robot equivalent of cocky. That doesn't last though. Magneto shows once again that he's not just a badass, he's pretty damn smart too. He reminds them that he was the one that build the rock that Utopia is floating on now. And he built it out of iron. Nimrod is about to get a lesson in physics. What happens when you take a shit ton of magnetism and use it to warp iron? Well since the physics is as boring as watching flies fuck, Magneto skips the lecture and goes straight to the demonstration. It's not exactly clean, but sure is awesome.
The next few pages take a break from all the sloppy transitions and tie together the entire fight, present and future alike. It's easy to forget with all these scenes that these battles are all unfolding at the same time. Greg Land makes good use of these pages and slaps together a nice montage of the whole epic fight that's unfolding. It's by far the best part of the issue and helps tie together what has been building since Act III began. You've got the X-men, X-Force, and Hope fighting side-by-side. Without mincing words, it's pretty fucking sweet.
Through it all there's plenty of gloom and doom. The X-men are backed into a corner and have been Bastion's whipping boy for nearly three issues now. The time for a turning point is long overdue and it finally happens within the computerized mind of Cypher. He asserts himself as the real star of this issue as battles Mastermold, who appears to be trying to fuck his brain in the style of tentacle anime porn. But for Cypher, no really does mean no and he finally gets the better of the big bad erector set by being creative and witty. It's definitely the kind of style one would expect in a Mike Carey comic.
As soon as Cypher wins his battle, the war against the Nimrod sentinels is won as well. It's a classic case of buying time against a superior foe while an ace in the whole goes for the jugular. It's not terribly complicated, but it isn't the same old cliched brawl that so many event comics often resort to. The strategy here really does add a level of complexity to this fight that isn't easy to come by and is quite fitting for a crossover of this nature. For once, Bastion's brilliant plan falters and the X-men can finally stop shitting themselves.
Now you would think things would settle after a battle like this, but this is X-men. Things never settle, especially considering they're still trapped in an unbreakable red dome. As the dust is settling, Cyclops goes after Hope. Unlike the others he seems to have remembered that Hope is still the key to this whole affair. She's the one who is supposed to save the mutant race. Unfortunately, she's still pretty pissed at him for sending Cable into the future and she makes her anger known by pointing the big fucking gun she used to bitch slap the Nimrod Sentinels right at his jaw.
Now this could have been a very emotional scene, but it quickly turns into somewhat of a joke. Granted, Mike Carey does a decent job of laying out the dialogue, but Greg Land's art really disappoints here. He draws Cyclops with the expression of Chrisopher Walken on LSD while Hope looks like she's suffocating on the surface of Mars while someone is jamming an ice pick into her spine. She does have plenty of reason to be angry, but the problem here is the same problem she had back in Uncanny X-men #525. It's overly dramatic and lacking heart. It's also disturbing to look at. Hope has been drawn so well before and this is by far her worst. If I was her agent, I would send a dead horse head to Greg Land as a warning.
While Hope is directing all her frustrations on Cyclops, there's something unfolding with X-Force in the future. They beat Mastermold, so how are they going to get back home? Well as it turns out Mastermold took a page right out of the Terminator series and made the time gate only accessible to non-organic life forms. X-23 tried to pass through, but nearly got burnt to a crisp in a gruesome yet strangely awesome scene. Then Cable has an idea and not a very good one either. He lets the techno-organic virus that he's been battling for years take over his body so he can pass through. He arrives just in time to wipe that disturbing look off Hope's face set things up for another major fight. Compared to the cringe-worthy nature of the previous few pages, this one looks pretty damn good and helps get the contents of the reader's stomach back to where they should be.
Now this could have been a great place to end the comic, but Mike Carey does not like leaving loose ends as some of the other writers seem way too comfortable with. He seemed to realize that it would be stupid if for three comics they didn't show Bastion, the mastermind behind this whole attack. So he finally gives rob-douche a scene and a pretty damn good one too. Having watched the battle, Bastion is shaken but not daunted. He still has some momentum going for him. He still has the X-men trapped. He can make one final push and it looks like he's going to in the pages of X-Force. If that isn't enough to get readers high like bunnies on crack, then they need to turn in their fanboy cards immediately.
So despite the many missteps of the past few issues, Mike Carey does help move things forward and sets things up for a dramatic finish. If keeping the story going and keeping it entertaining was the goal, then mission accomplished. But if regaining the same brand of awesome that was so apparent from the beginning of the crossover was the goal, then that would be a mission failure. Mike Carey is usually so good about fleshing out what other writers have failed to do so he's so surprisingly underwhelming in this that it's disheartening. It could be because there really wasn't much room for his usual characterization and dialogue. This was an issue that was all about the action. It was pretty good action at times and it would have definitely made up for the lack of dialogue and depth if it flowed nicely. But it didn't. The scenes transitions were sloppy and abrupt. There wasn't much wit going on either, which made certain portions come off as dry and uninspired.
But these shortcomings aren't nearly as egregious as the previous two issues and if nothing else, Carey did a nice job ending a fight that was starting to drag while laying the seeds for a new one. He kept the reader's interest and he did so without being too tacky. Greg Land had some nice moments as well, but that one page with Hope and Cyclops really brought him down a few pegs. He's been one of the better artists in this crossover so it's pretty distressing to see him barf a few panels like this. It seems to be a perfect sum-up of the disheartening trend Second Coming is going through. The crossover is just waning towards the end. It only has two issues left to redeem itself. If it's going to really be great, the next two issues will have to be flawless.
When put into the context of the past few issues and the plots that led up to it, this issue barely gets a 4 out of 5. I'm inclined to give it something lower, but it does improve from the previous two issues. It just doesn't do nearly enough. Also, with only two issues left it seems increasingly unlikely that there will be any answers concerning Hope and the many Phoenix/Jean Grey teases that have been dropped since Messiah Complex. Two issues left and still no word. If this series ends without addressing this it will be an epic fail and all the awesome from earlier will be for nothing. I pray Marvel isn't that stupid, but I wouldn't put it past them. I'm still on board until the very end. I'm ready for X-Force 28! Craig Kyle and Chris Yost have been visionaries for much of this series. It's time to see if they got the stones to pick up the slack! Nuff said.