Saturday, August 14, 2010
X-men #2 - Silencing Detractors (Like Me)
I know I do my share of bitching in my reviews. All fanboys bitch about comics whether they admit it or not. They'll sing the praises of some books, but take to their graves how much another book sucks. Rarely will a title win a reader over if beforehand they're either on the fences or comparing it to weapons grade fecal matter. This is especially true when big name books come out like X-men #1 or X-men #2. These are the books that draw immediate comparisons to the Chris Claremont/Jim Lee versions (you know, the greatest selling comic book of all time). That comparison usually means death and the first issue of the new X-men series, by Victor Gischler, was underwhelming to say the least. So when X-men #2 comes out there's not a lot of expectation for it to be awesome.
Yet here I am, sitting awkwardly with a book in hand I said some nasty things about and feeling like a total douche-bag. As a lifelong X-men fan, my standards for the comics are pretty darn high. When you've followed something for so long it's pretty hard to keep getting amazed, especially when you've seen so damn much that it takes the equivalent of a jackhammer to the balls to get astonished. X-men #2 wasn't quite that rough with my balls, but damn it if it didn't shock me.
It started off with some kick-ass action. At the end of the previous issue, the X-men were investigating a sudden influx of vampires in San Francisco (get ready for the Twilight jokes because they're damn near everywhere now). The investigation brought Wolverine and Colossus face to face with a gargoyle/vampire monster who looks strung out on crystal meth. Oh yeah, and he doesn't fucking sparkle!
A solid mutant vs. vampire fight unfolds. Say what you will about the seemingly bland premise of something that sounds like a Don King sponsored fight, but the way the fight is choreographed is nothing short of euphoric. It's a classic comic smackdown. Wolverine and Colossus even employ their trademark fastball special. Seriously, how long has it been since we saw shit like that? Did that move go out with the Macarana? Fuck no! It still looks awesome and it still gets the job done...mostly anyways. In the end these two macho men couldn't take down the damn thing and it took a little lightning from Storm to take him down. You get the sense Wolverine and Colossus had to deal with a sudden collapse of their scrotum for a brief moment.
They get a chance to reclaim a small part of their masculinity. They go after the downed creature as it slipped into the sewer. Heavens knows they don't need Storm smelling like shit so as honorable men, they wade through the shit themselves. It earns them some bonus points for manliness. But those points become worth precisely dick when they find out the anti-Edward Cullen has a big family.
Balls or no balls, Wolverine and Colossus are overmatched here. These vampire beasts apparently don't like being woken up only to find out a couple of jerk offs in costumes are beating up their brother. So in a rare moment of family bonding, the creatures wake up and tear into the two X-men. Now I know some anti-awesome douche-bags in the world (mostly in the Religious Right) claim that comics and pretty much everything else that's fun in this world is bad for children and bad for families. But here you have a family (albeit a family of vampire monsters) coming together and overcoming adversity. That should bring a tear of joy to the eyes of any family-loving, warm-blooded American. Fuck you Focus on the Family and the Family Research Counsel. Comics can still make readers feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
At least until Blade shows up. Apparently, Wolverine and Colossus are not going to win their manliness back in this fight. They have to be rescued again by Marvel's own version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, except this slayer has balls, a sword, and some damn fine sunglasses.
Not only does Blade save their asses, but he answers some much needed questions. First off, he shoots down the notion that Dracula is behind this shit. Turns out Dracula's dead. He's about as involved as Sarah Palin in governing affairs. He also reveals why these creatures seem to be so comfortable in sunlight. Now usually in the Marvel Universe when a vampire goes out in the sun, they catch fire and burn away like a firecracker (again, they don't fucking sparkle!). But now they've found a way around that shit. Now these creatures are sporting some fancy necklaces that divert solar radiation, protecting them from the sun and allowing them to keep on hunting even in broad daylight. It's some pretty fun and terrifying shit that won't help the X-men sleep at night or in the day for that matter.
While Wolverine and Colossus continue to salvage their balls with Blade, Jubilee is still in deep shit back on Utopia. In the last issue she was caught in a suicide attack that infected her with some virus that was turning her into a vampire. Now that has to rank near the top in terms of shit that will ruin your day/life and it's starting to get to her here. She's already starting to feel woozy from the sun, which is normal for a vampire. She's also getting this strange sensation that something is calling out to her, which isn't so normal.
So what could be calling out to this vulnerable teenage girl? You know, besides hormones, cosmetic companies, and Stephanie Meyer? Well the mastermind behind this shit does show his face and he looks pretty badass. He's not Dracula. He's a guy named Xarus, which admittedly isn't a very badass sounding name. It sounds like some pussy compact car from Toyota. But he's still pretty badass, far less Twilight and far more True Blood. His plan seems simple enough. He wants to lure Jubilee to him so the X-men will come and rescue her. When they do, he'll infect them as well so he'll have the most powerful mutants in the world on his side. In terms of plans that's pretty basic and it's grossly underestimating the capabilities of the X-men, which works out about as well as BP's PR department. So even though Xarus is badass, nobody is expecting him to succeed all that much. But he brings in a chick in a hot chick in her underwear, so that earns him some bonus points.
Already, the first and easy part of the plan is going into effect. Jubilee starts listening to that voice that's calling out to her (really, when is it ever a good idea to listen to the voices in your head when you're not on LSD?). She decks Dr. Rao and steals a jet ski so she can find whatever it is that's reaching out to her. It's probably the most badass Jubilee has been since M-Day so fans of her should be somewhat satisfied, although some may still cringe at the idea of her being a vamp.
While she's getting away, the X-men are getting a crash course in vampire politics from Blade. He goes into lecture mode, explaining how Xarus pulled off something that even Dracula could never manage. He united all the waring sects of vampires Genghis Khan style. So instead of a bunch of asshole vampires bitching and fighting with humans and each other, you have a bunch of asshole vampires just bitching and fighting humans on a single front. It's somewhat akin to how mutants were united on Utopia so the X-men should have some idea of how fucked they are.
But just in case there were some skeptics out there who thought that maybe they can clean this shit up and be back in time to watch Monday Night Football, Blade reveals another disturbing detail. This entire united vampire front is converging on San Francisco. Xarus is using that pull of his to get all his blood-sucking brethren in the same zip code. The X-men's science team are even nice enough to construct a map to visually depict how fucked they are. It's not a very fancy shot, but it does get the point across. They are pretty fucked.
So what do they do about it? What plan could they possibly put together that doesn't involve them charging head first into the fucking Great Wall of Vampires? Surprisingly, it's Emma Frost who comes up with a plan this time and true to her style it's of the devious variety. She follows the old saying "the enemy of your enemy is your friend." Add to that if that friend has a bloated ego, that's all the more incentive for their side. But what sort of friend are they talking about? How about fucking Dracula? The fucking lord of the vampires!
The logic is as simple as simple as it is fucked up. Dracula never succeeded in uniting vampires so when some upstart douche comes along and succeeds where he fails, it's safe to assume he's going to be fucking pissed. So pissed that he may be inclined to help the X-men. That or maybe Emma could throw in some topless pictures of herself to sweeten the deal. But either way it seems like a much better plan than just mindlessly attacking an entire nation of hungry vampires. Cyclops, seeing as how he has the extra motivation of more sweet pussy from Emma by listening, decides to rally around this plan and give it a try. Wolverine calls it a hail mary pass. Others might call it cleaning up a war zone by blowing it the fuck up. Either way, it has all sorts of potential for awesome.
And they'll have plenty of extra motivation as well because just as they're putting together this fucked up plan, Xarus is fucking up Jubilee. She followed the voices and was led straight into Xarus's arms. So the first part of his plan succeeds because she essentially begs him to take away her pain (as if becoming a vampire is akin to a woman having her first period). His way of taking it away is embracing her and not in the Edward Cullen way. He fucking bites her, essentially sealing her fate and setting the stage for both crazy plans to take shape in the next issue.
So what can you say about X-men #2? Does it still fail to measure up to the Claremont/Lee version? Well forget that shit for a moment and focus on the book itself. This issue essentially took the mediocrity of the last issue and injected a fresh dose of awesome in it's ass. The fight scene with Wolverine, Colossus, Blade, Storm, and the gargoyle vampires was beautifully crafted. The sinister plots of Xarus and Emma Frost were well done too. Jubilee's story is a bit more iffy, mainly because she comes off about as gullible as Homer Simpson with these new vampire instincts of hers. This girl may be a teenager, but she's a former X-man for crying out loud. She's too much Bella Swan and not enough Sookie Stackhouse. Fans of hers would probably be pretty damn mixed about this.
If there's anything cynical about these stories it's that they're pretty simplistic. A seven-year-old could probably read this and follow along. That may be good for the young crowd now being raised by shows like the Super Hero Squad. For the more advanced reader, it may seem pretty unimaginative. This isn't the kind of twisting, refined stories that writers like Joss Whedon or Chris Claremont would tell. This is mutants vs. vampires in it's most basic form.
Even if it is simple. It's still done pretty damn well and sets the stage for some kick-ass action in the next issue. It's definitely an improvement, one that shows this new X-men series can measure up to the hype. Will it ever match the title of Claremont/Lee? Probably not, but it's still a damn fine X-men comic. For anybody who is just getting into X-men or just wants to see some old school action, this is shaping up to be the comic that will get the job done. The final score here is a 4 out of 5. Gischler is definitely working his way towards the summit of Mount Awesome. He still has a ways to go, but at least the peak is in sight. Nuff said.
PS: What the fuck is wrong with the comments part of Blogger? Is anybody having problems commenting? If so let me know so I can fix it!