Monday, November 1, 2010
X-men Legacy #241 - Mediocre to Awesome in Just Four Issues
In my previous review for Uncanny X-men #529 I conceded that I was naturally harsh on Matt Fraction. On the other side of that coin, I've been fairly lenient of Mike Carey for his work on X-men Legacy. When Matt Fraction wrote a sub-par issue I became as menacing as a Philadelphia Eagles fan after fourth quarter loss in the NFC championship game. When Mike Carey wrote a sub par issue, I was about as concerned as a New England Patriots fan. Because even when one issue goes wrong, I'm not worried about the tools that are in place. I'm not saying Mike Carey is as cold or as nasty as Bill Belicheck, but he does have a solid record when it comes to X-men Legacy in the sense that sub-par issues are always followed up with the quality awesome that X-fans like myself have come to expect and cherish.
When I reviewed the first issue of the Collision arc, which is the first arc in Legacy since Second Coming, I was pretty disappointed. Sticking with my football analogy, it was like seeing the Patriots put Tom Brady on the bench and place Ryan Leaf under center instead. I liked that it changed scenery from Utopia to Mumbai and I liked how some characters like Indra got the spotlight, but it was so damn confusing and it was so slow paced I let out no fewer than six yawns by the end. The issues that followed were progressively better, but it wasn't until X-men Legacy #240 that the story really picked up and started coming together. Mike Carey finally put together a nice twist and threw some more action into the mix. I haven't been able to yawn since and now the final issue of the Collision arc is in. Can it make up for the slow start? Well if you're familiar with Mike Carey's track record I really don't have to drop any hints. I'll just say it's about as surprising as the New England Patriots making the playoffs.
The end of X-men Legacy #240 was a major twist. Just as Indra was about to marry what was supposed to be his brother's bride, it was discovered that the mutant that escaped from the Children of the Vault, Luz, pulled a double take. She switched places with Indra's bride when the Vault attacked, looking to abduct mutants to power Anglefire, which is the Children of the Vault's version of the sun. For whatever reason it needs mutants and because Indra's bride wasn't a mutant, it sort of fucked things up. And by sort of I mean it crashed their fucking station in the middle of Mumbai. By X-men standards, that's a typical Wednesday yet still makes for an awesome image for a post card.
This finally gives the rest of the team the kick in the ass they need to stop with the family drama and start fighting. Now that there's a giant fucking space station in the middle of the city and Luz confirms that Magneto, Rogue, and Vaipala (Paras bride) are inside, they can spring into action. This doesn't stop Paras's dad from still being a douche-bag. Even the sight of a giant space station in a city isn't reason enough for him to let his son do the right thing. Only this time, Paras's testicles descend somewhat and he doesn't listen to his father. Saving the world does sort of trump daddy issues, but just barely it seems.
Rogue and Magneto are already at it on their end. Not only does Angelfire's failure essentially strand them in the middle of a major city in India, it frees their prisoners. Rogue puts her absorption powers to good use to get some extra muscle. It once again makes readers pine for the days when she still wielded Miss Marvel's powers. It's not the same, but it's still pretty awesome.
Magneto does his part as well albeit in his own way. He uses his magnetic powers to essentially keep Angelfire and the whole complex grounded. He says he'll give them back their precious citadel if he lets him, Rogue, and Vaipala walk out. It sounds heroic, but this is Magneto we're talking about here. Accepting a deal from him is like trusting that Nigerian prince who sent you a nice email about an investment opportunity in Ghana that only requires your bank account number and your pass port. You're going to get screwed over. There's no use clenching your asshole.
The Children of the Vault don't make it easy on them. They do fight back, albeit in a hilariously pathetic way. Rogue stole one of their henchmen's gravity powers and it having as much fun as a necrophiliac in mass grave. It makes for some nice destructive scenes that add an epic nature to a story that hasn't had too big a scale until now.
The other X-men catch up and are preparing to join the fight, but along the way Luz joins them. Originally, she chickened out because she didn't want to go back to the Children of the Vault. Not that anyone can blame her, but after some of the stunts she's pulled in this arc she comes off as less than likable if not an outright douche bag. However, she does have a smidgen of desire or she just has the hots for Indra. Why purple skin gets her wet is a mystery, but it's enough to have her help out and that adds some twists to what could easily become another meaningless brawl and Mike Carey is above that. In addition Luz knows the citadel and has a little something called a plan that goes a long ways with shit like this.
The fight with Rogue and Magneto seems lopsided for a while, but it goes south eventually when one of the Vault fighters takes Vaipala and threatens to get her a Taliban style haircut (they're going to kill her if that was too subtle for you non-political types). Magneto understands they're going to kill her anyways, but Rogue being the one with the conscious gets them to stand down. In this case it helps that Magneto still clearly wants to bone Rogue because were her panties still not in his sights, he wouldn't have thought twice about throwing Vaipala in a blender with the rest of the Children of the Vault. It shows that even though he's fighting for the X-men, he is Magneto.
Here's where another twist comes in. Remember that plan Luz mentioned earlier? Well just like last issue, she used her light powers to cast an illusion. This time instead of playing imposter at a wedding for a cheap laugh, she does something a little less cruel and makes it so the Children of the Vault see exactly what they want them to see. This way they can escape and laugh their assess off in the process.
When the ruse is uncovered, the Children of the Vault are understandably pissed. But to prevent them from pitching too big a hissy fit, Luz once again makes herself a more likable douche-bag and turns herself in. It doesn't exactly calm them down, but it does buy the X-men more time to search deeper into the citadel. They run into more obstacles along the way in the form of what can only be described as Cylon rejects from Battlestar Galactica. It seems unnecessary, but it makes for a kick-ass fight that makes it so the other X-men have a chance to use their powers.
The next step takes them to the core of the citadel. The goal here is to get this eye-sore out of Mumbai less it become an annoying tourist attraction. Through some creative use of mutant powers, they charge some of the systems back up after fucking with them for a bit to ensure they never come back (never being a relative term in comics). It makes for a nice light show that effectively rids Mumbai if the Children of the Vault. It's the fitting knock-out punch that finally puts an end to a conflict that started slow, but became quite a spectacle.
Now that the Children of the Vault are gone, the X-men have only a few more loose ends to tie up. Indra meets with his family one last time. The wedding is called off and Paras makes it clear he's staying with the X-men. His father is understandably pissed. However, he doesn't come off as a complete asshole for once. He makes it a point to reason on some levels that this fighting is not right. He and his family are pacifists. Regardless of whether or not he's a mutant, he shouldn't be fighting. Indra doesn't scoff at that notion. He replies in a way that's just as reasonable. He's experienced things his father hasn't and understands things no one who isn't a mutant can possibly understand. They don't part on a bitter note, but there is still conflict. It shows that Paras's family may very well be a factor again for future stories.
It's a nice way to leave some doors open. Seeing as how the Children of the Vault were only banished and not destroyed, the door is open for them to return as well. Mike Carey offers so many possibilities while making a fitting resolution. It is somewhat short, but it does tie everything up nicely in a way that almost feels like superior Halloween candy. Between the twists and the quality, it's both a trick and a treat! And I didn't even have to wear my She-Hulk costume.
So the story is tied up nicely despite it starting so slow. Mike Carey shows once again that he's better than most when it comes to battling back against the forces of sub-awesome comics. That doesn't completely excuse him from starting things off so poorly. He's too good a writer to dig himself into those kinds of holes. That's why grading this issue and the Collision arc as a whole is a challenge.
The arc itself has turned into an engaging story. It shifts gears with the X-men, taking them to a new location and telling a different kind of story. It brings characters like Indra into the spotlight who usually don't get a chance to shine because the awesome of those like Magneto and Rogue are so bright. It also helps that Rogue looks better in a thong. But it's important for other characters to get a chance and Mike Carey does an admirable job even if it's spotty at times. This final issue of the arc tied things up in a way that was satisfying, but not necessarily complete.
So for this I have to give two separate scores. X-men Legacy #241 is definitely a quality book. The art, the writing, and the story as a whole was great even if some scenes felt a little short. On it's own this issue is a solid 4 out of 5. I'm tempted to give it a higher score, but I don't feel that would be appropriate since this issue did have to contend with the weaker aspects of the story from the beginning. When this issue is put into the overall Collision arc, the final score is 3.5 out of 5. It fell flat early, but it recovered in a big way. It shouldn't be too surprising. This is what Mike Carey is capable of and he demonstrates that here with his commitment to awesome. He could have made it better, but it's still worthy of praise. For this, I deem Collision awesome in it's own right and have plenty of faith that future stories won't have to dig themselves out of holes to be good.
There are only so many times I can go through disappointment/approval cycles before my brain starts to melt and it's fucked up enough from reading shitty Ultimate titles. I would be content for Carey to remain consistent. There are few consistencies in comics and like rare nude photos of Heather Locklier, they are precious and treasured. I wouldn't go so far as to say Mike Carey's writing is on the same level as naked women, but he's in the same zip code. Nuff said!