Sunday, September 12, 2010
X-men #3 - Rise of Vampires
When I started reading this new adjectiveless X-men series, I was skeptical and possibly a little uncomfortable. This book was taking on the title of a classic run with Chris Claremont and John Byrne. That's the equivalent of a religious nut-job naming himself Jesus Christ and claiming to be the same guy from the classic book that so many others have read. If some of you religious folk out there found that horribly blasphemous, then you'll have a inkling of how I felt about this series. But unlike the religious nuts of the world (you know who you are), I gave this series a chance. The first issue was underwhelming to say the least. But the next issue really surprised me. There's a genuinely good story here and it's played out on a scale much larger than something some guy at Marvel threw together in between beer runs with the Disney execs. Before this issue came out, there were some one-shots with Storm and Gambit as well as Blade that helped fill in the blanks of what's going on in this book. When these books came out, they set the stage for X-men #3 and the way it came together is the fanboy equivalent of a simultaneous orgasm with Scarlett Johanssen.
The mutants vs. vampires story has spawned some intriguing plots and some pretty awesome battles from the onset. The previous issue set the stage for the Gambit and Storm one-shot, the Namor one-shot, and Blade one-shot. The X-men saw a vampire invasion descending upon San Francisco led by Xarus, the second son of Dracula who doesn't have daddy issues as much as he has outdoing-his-daddy issues. He already got the X-men involved by getting Jubilee infected with a virus that was turning her into a vampire. The last issue ended with her answering that little voice in her head to go meet up with Xarus's crew. It's essentially the same as a banner ad that drives Twi-hards to a Team Edward or Team Jacob meeting.
As the one-shots come together, X-men #3 starts off by having a very pissed off Wolverine go out looking for Jubilee. Some who destroyed too many brain cells by sniffing magic markers may forget that at one point Jubilee was Wolverine's unofficial side-kick. Unlike Batman and Robin, Wolverine avoided the gay innuendo by making his side-kicks teenage girls. You could argue which is creepier, but the man still managed to develop a close bond with Jubilee so he's understandably driven to get her back.
While Wolverine goes off on his anti-Twilight campaign, the rest of the team converge from the events of the one-shots to put Dracula back together. Now it's easy to still question this move. This is fucking Dracula we're talking about and in the Marvel Universe he's no pussy. It also helps that he's not the overly sexy Bill Compton-like vampire from True Blood. So when he wakes up from an imposed slumber, he's noticeably pissed and confused. However, the X-men do take plenty of precautions. It remains to be seen if they'll amount to more than a soft pile of cow shit.
While Dracula is getting back into the swing of being undead rather than fully dead, Wolverine is going on a rampage in search of Jubilee. It's a little contrived in that his search is condensed into the contents of a single page. It just has him slicing through local bars and vampire hang-outs, not following clues or anything or uncovering potential secrets. He sounds kind of like Marv from Sin City at times, except he lacks Mickey Rourk's edge. It's not that it was too easy for him to get the answers he wanted. It was just too quick and feels like a miss opportunity.
The only problem with this mission of his is that it may be all for nothing. The very next scene shows a new and improved, fully vampire Jubilee. In the final pages of the previous issue, she gave into the urge to become a vampire the same way Tiger Woods gave into the urge to use his celebrity to gain endless pools of poon. Now she's a full-blooded badass vampire and looks pretty damn hot. Jubilee has never been defined as the super sexy type. Emma Frost, Psylocke, Jean Grey, and plenty of other X-women dominate that category. But after this transformation, she may officially enter the conversation. She's certainly no Bella Swan and when she boasts how good she looks, most male readers are inclined to agree.
Now granted, it may not be the most original look Jubilee has ever had. She comes off as a mix of Kate Beckinsale from Underworld and Selene from the Hellfire Club. It could be better and I don't recall her having hair that long in the previous issue. You could chalk that up to her transformation, but it's still one of those little things that may bug some fans.
While Jubilee is getting used to her new look, she is already a big part of Xarus's plot. However, it's not the standard vampires-rule-and-everyone-else-sucks ordeal. Xarus reveals that he came to San Francisco for a reason and not just because guys who dress like him can walk down Castro Street without turning any heads. He actually wants to unite mutants and vampires. He sees them as cut from the same cloth, hated and feared by the rest of humanity. Alone they're always going to be marginalized, but united they could be unstoppable. It's not an unreasonable plan even if it is still something Dr. Evil from Austin Powers would probably approve of. But unlike Dr. Evil, Xarus is competent to withstand more than a the antics of a sex-crazed British agent who isn't James Bond. He seems to have set a trap for Wolverine and he's prepared to spring it. This is where Jubilee comes in and will be able to prove she's more Sookie Stackhouse and less Bella Swan (yes, I'm aware I made a Bella Swan joke earlier, but I can't help that they work so damn well!).
While Wolverine is foolishly walking into yet another trap laid by a pretty girl (pussy is his kryptonite after all), the X-men are still entertaining a guest in Lord Dracula. Even while restrained he shows some uncanny old world class. He hits on Storm, which shouldn't surprise anybody because he did try to bone her at some point. However, he seems to take a much better liking to Emma Frost, commenting on how well she pulls off her obscenely sexual outfit. In this it doesn't matter if Dracula is a vampire. Pretty much any guy would say the same. That may prompt Dracula to try and bone someone else besides Storm and since Emma has so nicely tamed by Cyclops over the past few years, it could very well be an upgrade. The really remarkable thing is that despite getting all Bill Compton with Emma, Cyclops still addresses the guy and without much convincing he agrees to release him from his restraints. Either Second Coming had him use up all his competence or Emma is psychically manipulating him so she can have Vlad flirt with her more.
Enter the sewers now. It's a place where a guy like Wolverine should be right at home. And as expected, he encounters some guests that share his tastes. By guests I mean hoards of monstrous vampires looking to tear him apart. This time it lasts longer than one fucking page. Basically there are two full spreads of Wolverine clawing his way through the sewers in search of Jubilee. It's the most action of the whole book and it's pretty damn awesome. There's blood, there's sewage, there's vampires, and a homicidal Canadian. In essence, it's almost as exciting as a Canadian hockey game.
When he emerges through the sewer, he ends up in a lair right out of a bad anime porno and sees Jubilee strung up on the ceiling like she's about to endure a standard tentacle rape. Yeah, it's disturbing, but also kind of sexy. If you're into bondage and S&M, have some lube and tissues handy. The dark art and macabre scene should get your perverse juices flowing like a trip to the nails section at Home Depot.
Based on the earlier scene, nobody should be too surprised when Jubilee surprises Logan with a little trick. Yeah, he gets her down to complete this whole rescue operation of his. However, it's painfully clear that Jubilee is just tapping her inner Robert Pattinson to pull of an acting job that won't win her any Oscars, but still makes her overqualified for a role in Michael Bay's next movie. It has to be because she's able to trick Wolverine with those puppy dog eyes of hers the same way Brad Pitt tricks women out of their panties with his sexy gaze. When she does, she goes in for the bite and Wolverine is essentially one-upped by a teenage girl. For a guy who is supposed to be the best at what he does, it's probably the most emasculating moment he's endured since Chris Claremont wrote him in X-men Forever.
So Wolverine is screwed. What about the rest of the X-men and their plan with Dracula? Well that isn't doing much better. Despite letting Dracula out and filling him in on the situation, he really doesn't do jack shit. Even though his son is upstaging him, he seems to care about as much as Donald Trump cares about any non-blond woman over the age of 30. This is another one of those one-page scenes that tries to condense so much into one page. Except this time nothing is condensed. It's just a scene with Cyclops showing Dracula the situation and then Dracula just walks the fuck out. That's it. There's no witty exchange or anything. He just walks out and that's it. By far, this is the weakest scene in this young series. Is the price of ink really that high to not allow for another page? Seriously!
As lame as this page is, it doesn't bring down the whole issue. The final scene definitely picks up the slack, showing Jubilee returning Wolverine to Xarus and his crew. As expected, Wolverine puts up a major struggle. The bite from Jubilee didn't turn him into a vampire instantly. The guy has a healing factor. It takes a bit longer, but eventually even Wolverine can't resist. It reveals some of the keen strategy Xarus has employed and it should make his father feel usurped Hamlet style. He now has one of the most powerful and deadly mutants on his side, even if his healing fought the transformation. Lucky for him, Wolverine's streak of being emasculated continues and he surrenders to his inner Edward Cullen. He becomes a vampire and that's how the comic ends.
Even though Wolverine being a vampire is like giving meth to Billy Mays (may he rest in peace), it's not as striking as it should be. This isn't the first time the Wolverine-being-a-vampire plot was used. It was once the theme of a What If issue decades ago so while it looks pretty awesome, it's not as novel as Jubilee becoming a vampire. Even so, it's a nice way to move the story along. The plot becomes clearer with vampires looking to unite with mutants against the human world, even if it means vampires turning mutants into more vampires. It hardly seems fair, but then again this is Dracula's son we're talking about. Fair to him is the equivalent of saying fuck, shit, and cunt 30 times to his mother. It's a nice way to make the plot more salient other than just having a reason for mutants and vampires to duke it out.
That being said, this issue only met the expectations set by the previous issue. It didn't exceed them. A lot of focus was given to Wolverine's search for Jubilee while the discussion with the X-men and Dracula was horribly half-hearted. It was like the mandate for the issue was show Wolverine tearing through vampires and give the janitor some weed and have him write the other scenes. It was painfully underhanded. While Dracula's flirtation with Emma was fun and all, there wasn't much substance to his return. It was like all that trouble the X-men went through was for nothing. Even if that story is being saved for the next issue, it still couldn't hurt to at least drop some fucking hints. This is the era of Lost and viral videos! How could they resist the urge to tease the readers?
The book is still good though. The added help of the one-shots help give this series a scale that sets it apart from the other X-men titles. Even if it doesn't measure up to the Claremont/Byrne run, it has some quality storytelling and offers plenty of reasons for readers to keep on reading. It's not as well-crafted as the last issue, but it's not worth shitting all over. So for a final score, X-men #3 gets a 3 out of 5. It's as good an X-men series as you'll find. While not spectacular, it has mutants fighting vampires and Jubilee looking hot as hell. What more do you need?