Monday, August 2, 2010

X-men Legacy #238 - Mediocre Awesome for a New Era

So the new era after Second Coming has begun for the X-men and already there's been a misstep that has things tumbling like a botched stunt in Jackass. Uncanny X-men #526 really fell short of the lofty expectations established by the end of Second Coming. It was a disappointing showing for Matt Fraction, who despite some of his shortcomings always seems to rise to the occasion. However, his Uncanny issue wasn't the only post Second Coming X-book on the racks this past week. Mike Carey, who really shined throughout Second Coming, released his first issue of X-men Legacy since Second Coming. Unlike Fraction, he's a lot more consistent and you don't often have to hyperventilate into a paper bag full of incense before picking up his book. So his entry into the post Second Coming world should be as awesome as Fractions was not? Right? Right?!

Well it doesn't start out with a bang to say the least. The first few pages of Uncanny picked up right where Second Coming left off. I'm not sure where Legacy picks up. I tried channeling Mike Carey's mind through meditation and a few hits of DMT, but no such luck. The beginning of Uncanny reads like comic that is completely unrelated to X-men. It starts off in a hovering fortress called the Corridor where these Robocop knock-offs are interrogating this girl who looks Linsey Lohan when she's on trial. I know this is the beginning of a new arc and all, but what does this have to do with the X-men? I'm already lost and I forgot my GPS in the glove box of my car.

Before the police begin their search, the X-men do show up in the next scene. Rogue, Magneto, Loa, Anole, and Indra area all on a plane descending towards Mumbai, India. It's a pretty exotic location that's a long ways away from the gay pride parades and legalized weed of San Francisco, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There hasn't been a change of scenery in a while for the X-men and this holds some promise. Their reason for being there is a bit unclear though. Indra, who is Indian by the way, is visiting his family and Magneto is investigating what he believes to be electromagnetic anomalies. That or he just wants to get in another time zone with Rogue, which is actually a possibility sadly. I know Rogue and Magneto have a history and all, but the way they're being drawn together has the same disturbing undertones is Rush Limbaugh was being drawn to Miley Cyrus.

While it is still confusing, Carey does not leave the mystery dangling for too long and uses a brief flashback to explain what the hell is going on here. Cyclops and Rogue had a brief conversation on Utopia. Cyclops told her about what was going on with Indra, whose brother has fallen mysteriously ill. He wants Rogue to go with him and with Magneto as he does his investigation. While she's not usually one to pass up an exotic trip, she does have some reservation because that means leaving Hope behind. But that's probably the point. Cyclops wants Hope to function without her (or at least make it so he has an opportunity to make her stop hating him as much as she does for his boneheaded moves with Cable). There's also some subtext about this being somewhat of a punishment for her actions during Second Coming, which involved allowing Hope to confront Bastion. Now this is still a dick move because Hope did save their sorry asses, but Cyclops is not one to let this shit go and sends Rogue out anyways. He may also figure that if Magneto is up to something, he'll be more likely to screw up if he knows Rogue is watching because let's face it. Men screw up a lot more when they're trying to impress a pretty girl who wears short pants and likes showing off her cleavage.

Back in the present, we have a nice family moment to lighten the mood. Indra meets his parents at the door of their Taj Mahal like estate. His dad is a lawyer so of course he's rich. Sewing BP is quite a boon these days. And as a lawyer he does come off as somewhat of a douche-bag. He doesn't seem nearly as affectionate as his mother, thus making this typical rich Indian family yet another archetype of every American sitcom since the 1950s. Show me one family where the father isn't a dick and I'll show you a show that got canceled.

Sitcom references aside, Indra does get a chance to really shine here as he goes with his mother to visit his sick brother. He looks about as well as Terry Shivo looked once her feeding tube got pulled, but he's in a coma so they can't make any of those lame yet sad videos of that happy brain damaged talk that Fox News loves to run an hour before Glenn Beck comes on. His mother says the doctors have given up. Since they don't have Dr. House in India, they have no reason not to. Then his mother brings up something no strapping young man with plenty of poon left in his system wants to hear. His brother was engaged to a beautiful (and by beautiful I mean well-connected) woman and if his brother dies, that wonderful (and by wonderful I mean insanely profitable) wedding will be called off. Indra is smart enough to figure out where this is going.

Before the ACLU gets too giddy about suing for blatant stereotyping, Rogue catches up with Magneto and since she's wearing some very short pants to show off those legs of hers the old man does pay attention. Let's face it, guys love legs on a woman no matter how old they are. It's easy to forget that old Mags is on a mission of his own and Rogue is supposed to be keeping an eye on him. That means inviting him along while she takes the others sight-seeing and since she's dressed with alluring gullible old men in mind, he accepts. It's a nice witty exchange, but again it doesn't offer much clue as to what the hell is going on with this mission of his. If by now the reader isn't a little bored they must be on some killer shrooms.

If this road wasn't potholed enough, it takes another detour back to that weird chick from the beginning who again seems to be channeling her inner Linsey Lohan and stirring up some trouble. There's still not a whole lot of clues as to who the hell she is, what the hell she's doing, and why the hell she's doing it. Hell, not even Sherlock Holmes himself could follow that logic, but there is a brief shot of some sentinels so that offers some hope. But it feels about as random as seeing a donkey humping an elephant.

Back to the family drama and Indra's father is still being a douche-bag. He shows about as much emotion and affection as Michael Vick shows to dogs and basically talks down to his son, which granted is about as fatherly as it gets for some people. But father's don't get a pass at being assholes. He basically confirms what his mother hinted at. He wants Indra to marry the girl his brother was going to marry. Since his brother looks about as viable as the Detroit Lions's Superbowl chances, they're doing the stereotypical Indian thing and setting him up to marry a girl he's never even seen before. Given how he looks and the fact that he's surrounded by so much hot mutant poon back on Utopia, Indra is understandably pissed.

While this family drama is unfolding, Rogue and the others finally get some action in downtown Mumbai. They follow Magneto's senses, which is always about as good an idea as following a cannibal into a windowless tool shed, and wouldn't you know it? He leads them right into a shit storm. It's a pretty random event. Out of nowhere a bunch of clouds form and lightning starts striking the ground. Ignoring for a moment the poor physics of this event, it's not much of a fight. All they really do is stand there and try to not look too shocked while everybody around them tries not to shit their pants. It's about as heroic as standing across from a burning building and just shooting videos to upload to youtube.

While the lightning is flying and breaking more laws of nature, that crazy blond chick shows up in a way that's once again too random to formulate an appropriate metaphor with. At least there is some connection to this time because Magneto senses that she's the source of the energies he's been sensing. Again, this makes about as much sense as the second season of Lost, but at least this side-plot that seems so painfully contrived is starting to link up with the rest of the team. Then just as it seems some clues are about to emerge, the freakin' sentinels show up. Because that's what the X-men comics haven't had enough of since Second Coming...more sentinels. Unless your memory is really fucked up, you'll be about as underwhelmed as Paris Hilton is in a Wal Mart.

This book definitely has me scratching my head. I get that X-men Legacy doesn't completely fall in line with Uncanny. Each X-book has it's own unique plot and style so it's not terribly egregious when it doesn't link up with the events in those books. However, when the story and plot of the book is so disjointed and outright boring at times then that's a problem. Mike Carey is usually very good at making a story interesting while focusing more on character than action. That doesn't happen here. He seems to have tripped over his shoe laces just a few feet before the finish line. The elements are there, but there aren't any connections. It's like fireworks without a fuse. It's completely inert. There are some compelling plots with Indra and Magneto, but they really are underdeveloped and underwhelming. You don't expect that sort of thing from Mike Carey and after how great he was in Second Coming, that's quite a disappointment.

To his credit though, he still shows off some of his best skills. Mike Carey's strength has always been characterization and dialogue and he definitely shines here. Rogue, Magneto, Indra, and Cyclops all demonstrate a definitive style that is often a bit skewed in other books (Fraction, if you're reading this I hope you pick up on the subtext). However, with no plot to compliment them this book is just bland. That's the biggest criticism of this issue. It's so bland for most of the time and when the action finally does pick up, it's over. I understand that some arcs need a setup issue, but that doesn't mean those issues have to be boring. This really didn't grab the reader's attention and for that it's hard to build up to a certain level of awesome.

So for the final score to this book, I give it a 3 out of 5. It just isn't exciting or compelling enough to warrant anything higher. Granted, Carey gets an extra point over Fraction through his characterization skills and Clay Mann's art certainly outshines Whilce Portacio. But it has too many shortcomings. It's far from being irredeemable though. Carey can certainly pick right back up with the next issue and make it awesome again. For now, there isn't a whole lot of reason to get really psyched about this arc. If it's going to be awesome, it has a ways to go.

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