Sunday, December 12, 2010

X-men Legacy #242 - Untimely Awesome

Before I say anything, let me point out the obvious. I know I'm late posting this review for X-men Legacy #242. I know it came out over a week ago and I've been keeping my review to myself since then. Don't hunt me down and go Tony Soprano on my legs. I only have so much time in a given week and X-men Legacy was the odd comic out. I didn't come to that decision lightly. I meditated, pondered, took a few shots of acid, meditated some more, chatted with Ben Franklin and a pink Unicorn named Farley, took some more LSD, ate lunch with Sammy Davis Junior, got into an argument with a talking lizard, took one more shot of LSD, woke up naked in downtown Phoenix, paid the indecency fine, and then made my decision. The X-men Legacy review would have to wait.

Please don't get the wrong idea. Just because it was the odd comic out doesn't mean it was of lesser awesome compared to Brightest Day and Generation Hope. A Mike Carey comic book always has the potential to be awesome, no matter when you emerge from a drug-induced stupor wearing limited (if any) clothes. His last arc, Collision, was mixed at times. It started slower than one of George W. Bush's old speeches and was just as hard to follow at times without using the world 'evil' every six seconds. Then it got better. Towards the end it got a lot better. It was like being at a bar and hitting on some butt ugly chick, but after a few rounds of Jack Daniels she looks like a young pre-Federline Britney Spears. It took Mike Carey's collection of X-men away from Utopia and into India, home of call centers and less-than-solid bowl movements. It gave underdeveloped characters like Indra a chance to shine while still throwing in a few explosions from inter-dimensional pirates. It seemed like an odd story to tell after an event like Second Coming, but it was enjoyable none-the-less.

X-men Legacy #242 begins a new arc. In many ways this should have been the first arc following Second Coming because it deals directly with the aftermath of Bastion's attack. The X-men have an island that's been more beaten up than one of Ike Turner's old lady friends. The city of San Francisco is also a mess. When killer robots from the future come attacking, they tend to leave a mess. The city is rebuilding and so are the X-men. So it only makes sense that these two stories would intersect.

It starts off with one of the characters Bastion screwed over most. Hellion lost his hands during the battle. Now he's more disgruntled than Dallas Cowboys fans. He's trying to adjust to life without hands. Given he has telekinesis, that's not as bad as it is for some people. He can still work a remote control, play video games, type on the computer, and there's probably some way telekinesis can help him masterbate as well. However, he's still a prick about it. When Dr. Roa tries to help him, he thanks her by destroying her lab.

So yeah, Hellion is a prick. He epitomizes everyone still pissed off after Bastion's attack. That's when Rogue comes in. Remember, this is a Mike Carey X-books. If Rogue isn't involved, either someone's abducted Mike Carey or someone's blackmailing him.

While Rogue is catching up with Jubilee, Jean Gre-I mean Hope Summers (need I explain again?) passes by a friendly game of mutant baseball. It's like regular baseball, except the steroids are replaced with mutant powers. Yankee and Giants fans should be see nothing new. This also presumably establishes this story before the whole Five Lights story because none of Jea-I mean Hope's followers are near her. The time lines in these books are always more fucked up than a season of Lost, but since Second Coming hasn't completely lost it's impact it still feels relevant.

Hellion and Hope (there, got it in three this time!) end up joining a meeting called by Cyclops. He's posed a new project for the X-men. In addition to rebuilding Utopia, they should also help rebuild San Francisco. Seeing as how the whole killer robot from the future attack happened while they had set up shop, it's the absolute least they could do outside sending a thank-you card and a fruit basket to everyone in the city. Some pretty big names are expected to participate, including Magneto. Now he's not too keen on charity. If the X-men were the Simpsons, he would be Mr. Burns. He goes along with it anyways, showing he's been quite pussified since joining the X-men.

Hope also joins in, which gets some protest from Cyclops. She is the mutant messiah and nobody wants her being crushed by mobs of drug induced hippies or outraged homosexuals from Castro street. But she convinces them to let her go. Colossus summed it up best. She's from an apocalyptic future. It would be nice to see the world heal itself for a change. It would spare Hope the paralyzing fear that one day she would go back to eating rats for dinner.

It's amazing how mundane it seems, but the story is still there. They arrive in San Francisco and they start building. What would have taken weeks takes hours. Magneto basically schools all the construction workers in putting back together a damaged building. He does what only an army of illegal Mexicans could possibly accomplish, which in Arizona would probably get him arrested. But in San Francisco, he's as welcome as the Grateful Dead.

Now at this point some may complain that the story is too dull. I would ask those people pour sulfuric acid into their brains and take up cooking classes with Jeffery Dahlmer. After an event like Second Coming and with subsequent events like the Five Lights, everything is so big and eventful. There's explosions, epic battles, and all that shit. There's never a lot of attention given to the little things. Like how does a team like the X-men or a city like San Francisco rebuild after an event like Second Coming? It may not seem like much, but it's those little things that help make a story even more awesome. I read on the back of a bumper sticker in downtown Philadelphia once that big things are best held together by sealing the smallest cracks. It was right outside a strip club so it must be true!

This leads to another interesting moment with Hellion and by interesting I mean he becomes even more of a prick. Hope Summers, despite being the mutant messiah, helps out in a very small way. She takes a shovel and some boards. She takes the whole Jesus connotations and goes the carpenter route. This doesn't jive with Hellion. He basically calls her out, saying that she's supposed to be this super powerful savior. Yet she's not ding anything like healing his hands. He's asking for a miracle and she can't give it to him. It's quite a contrast between someone who may have limitless power and someone whose power is just limited enough to bitch about. It leaves Hellion to storming off while Hope gets to work, not even bothering to turn water into wine to cheer him up.

The next part should get those complaining about the lack of action to shut up. Karima, who is basically half-sentinel with boobs intact, accidentally shoots off a round that dings Colossus. Now anything that dings Colossus is cause for concern. It's another instance of Mike Carey taking a character who hasn't had much time in the spotlight and giving them a chance to be awesome. Anyone who can ding up Colossus would certainly qualify. After what he did with Indra in the last arc, Karima is starting to show her potential in this arc.

While Karima is starting to consider an upgrade from the beta version, the work continues. Hellion stops acting like a prick and starts putting his telekinesis to good use. All the while a little girl starts bugging Hope about how everyone else is flaunting powers while she's using a shovel. It's like she walked into an Ipod convention with a Walkman. Hope has a good sense or humor about it and gets her to help. She talks all cute and stuff, like the little Japanese girls in anime cartoons before the tentacle rape. It's all so nice and casual until something other than a demolition crew starts making a scene.

It turns out it's from Hellion. He's going a little overboard with the telekinesis, adding to his douche-bag factor which at this point is near an all time high. Hope and the girl try to calm him down a bit. Then Karmia comes flying in and goes Windows Vista on his ass. She's no longer in control. She's crashing harder than the Wikileaks hosting server and she starts picking up where Bastion left off.

Hope and the girl are understandably confused. Karmia is just as surprised as they are. She tells them to run, but Hope being raised by Cable doesn't understand that word. She might as well be talking to her in Swahili. Since she doesn't run, Karmia ends up doing what Bastion could only fantasize about doing. She shoots Hope. It's a powerful way to end an issue that wasn't too heavy on action. However, since we know Hope is alive and well in titles like Generation Hope it's more than a given that she survives. So yeah, it seems unnecessary and cheap. But it still has an impact, just not as much as it could have.

There's a lot to love about X-men Legacy #242. There's been a lot to love about Mike Carey's entire run on the title. A guy doesn't write a series for years at a time without it being awesome on some levels. Just ask Chuck Austin. Mike Carey goes for a more subtle approach compared to Matt Fraction or Kieron Gillen. Rather than rely on explosions and reality endangering threats, he goes for the personal touch. It's what defines his style and it's what makes it awesome. This issue gave the spotlight to Hellion, Hope, and Karmia while still touching on the X-men as a whole. It's that extra touch that the last arc lacked. He focused on the smaller things, showing how the X-men rebuild their home and the world around them. It's one of those stories that should have been told much sooner, but is still awesome when it finally does get told.

The sheer fact this story should have been told earlier does cost it some impact though. If this took place directly after Second Coming rather than throwing in an arc like Collision, it would have worked much better. It would have picked up the pieces and sealed up the loose ends in a much more salient way. Because it's been nearly six months since Second Coming came to an end, the breadth of this story is hard to appreciate. The end where Karima shoots Hope is also somewhat cliched. We already know what's happening with her in other titles. We know she's going to survive. If it were another character it might have more relevance. It just seems unnecessary here and more bland than Mike Carey needs it to be.

The issue itself is awesome. It's the context of the issue that keeps it from maximizing it's potential. As such, I cannot give X-men Legacy #242 a perfect score like I so desperately want. I can still give it a 4.5 though. Had it come out a few months earlier, it would have certainly been given the top seal of approval. But the delay can't be ignored. Mike Carey can still make up for it entirely by continuing the quality in the next issue. He's still one of the best X-scribes there is and issues like this show it. If only some decent planning could be implemented then I would have far fewer reasons to nit-pick. For now, it's merely awesome in it's own right and that's still pretty damn awesome! Nuff said.

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