Sunday, October 3, 2010

X-men Legacy #240 - Catching Up With Awesome

I know I said I was scaling back reviews. I never said I was stopping though. It would be a slap in the face to anybody who actually enjoyed my mindless rantings on comics laced with poop jokes, drug references, and coded messages to the CIA. While I can't produce the volume I once did, I just can't hold my tongue when it comes to certain books. X-men Legacy is definitely one of those books. Of all the X-titles on my pull list, this has been one of the most enjoyable and most consistent. Mike Carey has always had a knack for making an X-men story that doesn't suck. He rarely does something that disgusts X-fans so much that they want to ingest paint thinner, paint their bodies green, and run through the streets naked claiming to be the real Kermit the Frog. Second Coming really highlighted his skill when it comes to characterization and coherence. He's one of the few X-men writers for whom you don't have to get stoned to get the full benefit of the book.

However, Mike Carey is not infallible. He has stumbled at times like a college co-ed who crossed paths with Girl Gone Wild with a blood alcohol level no less than .20. It's never terribly egregious, but because of the overall quality of his work it is hard to miss. The first two issues since the end of Second Coming haven't been quite as bad as a DUI and a ticket for indecent exposure (signs labeled speed hump are so suggestive). The story has followed the activities of the Children of the Vault and a little investigation by Magneto into some magnetic disturbances in India. Now this sounds like a pretty decent plot idea on the surface, but the execution has been slower than watered down vodka at times. The books haven't been terrible. They've just been slow and unexciting. With the third entry into this arc, Carey has a chance to make this story awesome again and given his track record there's reason to believe he can pull it off. He's earned that label more than other Marvel writers who shall remain nameless (although their last names rhyme with Praction and Faremont)

The very first pages of this issue begin the process of making up for all that lack of action in the first two issues. The Children of the Vault barged into the family home of Paras Gavaskar (who were in the middle of arranging a marriage between two people who never even met) with the intent on abducting a mutant named Luz. She had escaped from the Vault in the previous issue and wasn't too excited about going back. She essentially hid behind the X-men the way a kid hides behind his big brother when the bullies on the playground want to give him an atomic wedgie, leaving everybody else to do her fighting for her. She's essentially a mutant version of Paris Hilton without the sex tape (yet).

This fight is a refreshing sight. X-men Legacy has never been known for epic fight scenes so this is a nice change up. It's like Carey's trying to make up for it in the span of a few pages and while it's no blood-soaked brawl from the pages of X-Force, it's a respectable attempt. What sort of brings it down is that the fight is pretty one-sided. The Children of the Vault had the edge from the beginning and they never relinquished it. Even with Magneto and Rogue on the other side, there wasn't much balance. In a battle against the X-men, that's like shooting only half a porno. You get the goods, but no money shots. It only ends with Luz finally stops being such a coward and attempts to turn herself over. This doesn't exactly work fully because the Children of the Vault essentially take her and drag Magneto and Rogue along for the ride, thinking their powers could be of some added use. So for the most part, Luz is still not much better than Paris Hilton.

So they disappear from the fight and Para's family comes back into the picture. They seem about as interested in the attack as Miss California is in Quantum Mechanics. They come off as being more concerned about the mess their maids will have to clean up and how this will effect the arranged wedding he's been banking on. So yeah, they're still assholes. Paras, to his credit, promises to go through with it. But he wants to save his friends. So rather than fight his asshole father, he's willing to move the wedding time tables up. He'll marry the girl he barely knows if his father will get off his back and let him save the world. It's sort of the reverse of what most teenage boys do, but it does make Paras more respectable. He's not the kind of guy that Bill O'Reily will single out when he bitches about culture wars.

So one side gets to arrange an Indian wedding while the other plays the role of prison bitch. That's basically what Rogue, Magneto, and Luz are stuck doing, minus the sodomy. The Children of the Vault have them restrained and powerless so they can go off on their standard evil douche-bag rant. Their plan is pretty simple. They're trans-dimensional beings who look at Earth the same way Bill Gates looks at pennies, useless and minuscule. They abduct mutants and use them in this grandiose machine called Angelfire. Somehow a device named after a shitty web-hosting service is supposed to make their lives as trans-dimensional douche bags easier. I don't think even Stephen Hawkings would get the physics behind this shit, but it is a fairly decent evil plot even if it only requires low-grade LSD to make sense of.

So they're on the verge of being imprisoned in some god-machine and the rest of the X-men are stuck at a wedding. What should be a joyous occasion between two people looking to get on each others' insurance plan is a pretty bland affair with Paras and his new bride (who he hasn't even known for a full day yet). Paras is trying to rush the affair, skipping the whole tears and music and all that shit that makes a wedding the spectacle you see on Lifetime movies. You almost feel for his bride because what should be a big moment is turning into the equivalent of a Vegas style drive through wedding.

While this is happening, the Children of the Vault are preparing to execute Rogue and throw Magneto into this Angelfire machine of theirs. Apparently, mutants are like batteries to this thing. The world the Vault lives in has no sun so they have no means of energy. This machine is supposed to generate that energy using mutants and because Magneto's powers are so badass, he's like the Saudi Arabia of power sources and that's not a weak analogy because this guy also has a history with terrorism. Neither seem too thrilled about this prospect, but they don't seem worried either. It's not so much that they're being tough about it as they are indifferent. It's not like they have a chance to either because the Children of the Vault are like Glenn Beck and Bill Maher. They love the sound of their own voices and don't let their guests/slaves talk.

These two events unfold in a pretty neat layout that gives the readers the impression that they are happen simultaneously. That's a rare kind of organization because comics are notorious for being mum about time. So it does help add some above-average salience to the book. So just as the wedding is getting into it's climax, Magneto is being strapped in and Angelfire is turned on. It comes together nicely because not only does the wedding take a turn at this moment, but Angelfire apparently has the functionality of a Soviet made car. Moments within strapping Magneto into it, the damn thing blows up. Either the machine is anti-semitic for rejecting Magneto or the Children of the Vault don't take into account how guys like Magneto tend to fuck shit up wherever they go. But that's not the only reason the damn thing field. This is where Mike Carey throws in another one of his legendary twists.

If the machine failing wasn't enough, the wedding with Paras takes a very unexpected turn. At the moment he's about to get legal permission to have sex with a woman without being harassed by religion and government, his bride calls it off. And it isn't because she's grown a backbone either or is shunning cultural traditions. It's because...well, she's not Para's bride to begin with. She's Luz. Apparently, she and his Indian fiance pulled a switch during the fight at the beginning of the issue. That means that while Luz is playing the role of blushing bride to be, the real bride is up with the Children of the Vault being strapped into Angelfire. It's probably the least fair trade outside of 19th century Native American treaties. But it certainly makes for an awesome twist! One that should make X-fans kiss Mike Carey's boots.

Para's father is understandably outraged. But let's face it, pissing him off is like beating up Bernie Madoff. It's more satisfying than it should be. Luz still comes off as being selfish, saying she switched with Para's bride just because she didn't want to go back. It wasn't part of some elaborate plan or anything. She just wanted to escape. It's pretty slick even if it does set her a few levels below Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan in terms of being a total bitch. It still ruins the wedding and pisses of the X-men. They still want to find their friends. Lucky for them, they don't have to do much searching. The Children of the Vault once again come to them. That short circuit of Angel fire did not keep their little citadel floating so it crashed into downtown India. It's an Independence Day style spectacle and it sets things up nicely for the next issue. If the twist didn't lure you in, the prospect of a rescue mission damn well better.

Now I know sometimes I come off as having a bit of an ego on this blog. I also know I can be pretty cynical at times. As a fanboy, I set unreasonably high standards for my comics and get prissy every time they're not met. That being said, I do have enough humility to eat my words when they need to be eaten. I was pretty harsh with Mike Carey on my reviews of the first two issues of this arc. I couldn't follow what was going on and the overall flow of the story was too boring for an X-men comic. But this issue wasn't just awesome. It made those first two issues even more awesome because it helps tie together the events that happened in those comics while throwing in some amazing twists along the way. It's the kind of double take that you don't see with a lot of comic writers. Everything is laid out nicely and what you see is what you get. That's not the case here. Mike Carey played with our perceptions and rather than feeling violated, the readers should feel stimulated. It's like a vibrating probe massaging your prostate. It may seem wrong, but it feels awesome!

So I'll say it. I was wrong. Mike Carey was right. He's smarter than me, more talented than me, better looking than me, and can probably kick my ass. This issue really surprised me in all the right ways. It's Mike Carey at his best, blending a well-thought out story with both action and personal dramas. The use of panels to denote the simultaneous passage of time was a nice touch as well. You get those trademark character moments with characters like Paras and Luz. You also get shit that explodes like with the Children of the Vault. There's really not much to complain about. It has something for everyone. If you bitch about it then you're just being a douche-bag.

I gave fairly low scores to the first few issues and since this one made those two better, I can't give X-men Legacy #240 anything less than a 5 out of 5. It's a great story and one that doesn't involve vampires if you can believe that. My love for X-men Legacy is once again reaffirmed and while I'll always have a special place for the mindless spectacles of mutants vs vampires, these well-crafted works by Mike Carey will always have a special place in my heart. Nuff said.

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