Sunday, March 20, 2011
Generation Jean Ripoff #5 - Conflicted Awesome
Well I knew it was coming. Sooner or later, a new issue of Generation Jean rip-off was going to come out. After the announcement from Nick Lowe a few weeks ago that spoiled the big mystery and one of the main reasons for reading this book, I've been so embittered I've been shitting ripened limes for the past week. Oh, and that's not a typo on the title. That's what I'm calling Hope Summers now because that's what she is and that's all she'll ever be. She's a Jean Grey rip-off, more blatant than Rachel Grey and with none of the honest charm that makes her likable. And after reading the Uncanny X-men Annual that came out this week (which I also hope to do a review that doesn't contain too many profanity laced rants), it now seems that Jean rip-off's most defining characteristic is being an annoying brat.
I had to get wasted and down a few purple pills this guy sold me from the back of an unmarked van to read this book. I woke up in my bedroom with a copy of the issue and my pants were missing. Now I'm not sure how I even got the book, but I had this strange mark on my left butt-cheek so that wasn't a good sign. I'll resolve that little mishap after I visit my proctologist, but it did help me digest Generation Jean rip-off #5 without spewing more chunks than a bulimic French model.
Now as a fair warning, my tone with this issue may sound a bit hostel. I apologize for this, but that's what happens when you read a comic that is essentially ripping off one of my favorite character and not doing a very good job of it. I've given Kieron Gillen high marks for his handling of this book and I don't want to take my frustrations out on him. He's a great writer who really didn't have any control over the situation he came into. So throughout this review, I'm going to try and avoid blaming him or questioning his talent. He's not the bad guy here. He's not the editor of the X-books either. He's done a great job with what he has to work with, but even a master artist is limited when his building materials consist of shit, lies, and assorted bodily discharges that the American Medical Association has yet to classify. So Mr. Gillen, if you're reading this none of my angst is directed at you. Feel free to convey it to the appropriate sources, but try to sugarcoat it as much as possible. I'll send you a box of my sister's 'special chocolates' as a wedding gift if you catch any flack for it.
Okay, now that I've issued my warning, we can move onto the actual comic. Generation Jean rip-off #5 is not part of an arc or anything. It follows the events of the previous issue, which had the Five Lights return to Utopia and get accustomed to their new surroundings. It's not clear how much time has passed since then. There's no note indicating whether this happens before or after the current Quarantine arc. I'll just use my imagination and a few hallucinogens to figure it out. Marvel's timeline with 616 is more fucked than a German whore during Ocktoberfest. But wherever and whenever it happens, it begins with Charles Xavier and Magneto having a conversation.
Now what's remarkable here is that a scene like this is actually surprising. It shouldn't be when Charles Xavier literally put the X in X-men, but as anyone who has been following the X-books for the past two years knows the Professor has been laying low like Tom Cruise in a gay bar. He hasn't done jack shit even as the mutant race nearly went extinct. So it's a little jarring to see him talking with Magneto, despite that whole Magneto trying countless times to kill him and his team. They're not just fuming over old times. They're working together on Cerebra, trying to tweak it so they can detect new mutants at an earlier stage. Remember, the Five Lights manifested their powers in a way that was so messy that it left downtown Tokyo more ravaged than Amy Whinehouse on a cocaine binge. So it makes sense to be proactive, even if it means working with the enemy. That makes about as much sense as Larry King's pre-nups, but it leads them to question Jean rip-off (aka Hope "redheaded brat" Summers).
Speaking of which, the so-called mutant messiah is taking the next logical step with the Five Lights. She's now training them, trying to show these naive teenagers whose only previous power was being able to update their facebook status while driving how to fight. Her training skills are about as competent as you would expect of a teenage girl in that she's teaching them how to shoot guns. Seriously, after the job they did in Tokyo why the fuck would they need to use guns? Isn't that the benefit of being a mutant? You don't have to go through that stupid background check to pack some heat? And this from a girl who wields the Phoenix Force no less.
The Five Lights are about as comfortable handling guns as a recovering alcoholic at Mardi Gras. The only one who shows some competence is Teon, which seems to send the message that it's okay to give mindless man-animals loaded weapons. Nice message, Marvel! Your asses have officially been targeted by Michael Moore and the NRA! Prepare for the ghost of Charlton Heston to haunt your dreams.
When Charles and Magneto show up, the training ends and Jean rip-off takes a moment to talk to the two men who did more to complicate mutant affairs than anyone in the history of the Marvel universe. This is actually the first time that Xavier has had a chance to confront the mutant messiah, which is pretty outrageous because what else has he been doing all this time? Stalking college girls on Facebook? I'm pretty sure Wolverine fills that roll.
The conversation they have is pretty insightful. Jean ripoff has a pretty different take on Xavier's worldview. She doesn't agree with the whole "gifted youngsters" aspect of his mission. In her mind, mutants aren't gifted. They're just people. That's easy for her to say when she grew up around aliens, cyborgs, and killer robots. That doesn't mean her perspective is wrong either, but it's worth noting she's still a freakin' teenage girl. She's talking to a guy who has more experience in dealing with mutants than anyone. She believes that Xavier's ways are over. That's a sentiment shared by many. Again, just because she's the mutant messiah and a blatant ripoff of Jean Grey doesn't mean she's right. To Xavier's credit, he doesn't call her out being a disrespectful brat who wouldn't even let the man talk. That shows you Charles Xavier still has more manners and civility than any Jean ripoff ever will. Although I'm sure Magneto will be jerking off to memories of his conversation with the mutant messiah for the next ten years.
Xavier and Magneto aren't the only ones Jean ripoff is getting to know better. She also has her first experience of taking a class with Emma Frost. Given that redheads seem to be repulsed by Emma Frost in the same way Pat Robertson is repulsed by Richard Simmons, it's no surprise that Jean ripoff tolerates her presence for no more than five minutes. It leads to a pretty nasty confrontation because the Five Lights (despite some hesitation with Laurie) blindly follow her as if her farts smell like purified chocolate.
In this scene there is also another ominous exchange that would have been a lot more ominous had Nick Lowe not spoiled the whole mystery surrounding Jean ripoff. She asks Emma why she's so scared of her. It's an unusual question, but as any informed X-men reader knows or anyone who read the wikipedia entry Emma was the one that saw the Phoenix Force surround Jean ripoff at the end of Second Coming. This is the same Phoenix Force that has been fucking with her since she thought it was okay to steal someone's husband. She knows that this is something that will likely fuck her up in ways that even an ex-stripper like her can't contemplate.
Very few people can make Emma Frost feel threatened. A Jean ripoff seems a fairly appropriate exception. She offers the lights a warning that Jean ripoff will be the end of them. She even laments that she'll be the end of them all. Now it's only natural she would think that because she knows first hand how a redheaded woman with the Phoenix Force can fuck everything up. The sad part is she may be right given how Jean ripoff appears to be about as stable and reasonable as the Westboro Baptist Church. Kitty (who is still wearing that ridiculous space suit) even drops by to comment. Emma offers another hint as to who this redhead reminds her of. Again, that would be such a great hint if the mystery wasn't already spoiled. Thanks again, Nick Lowe!
If that weren't annoying enough, Jean ripoff dropped another hint of her ripoffedness (I patented that word just so you know). While the other lights are praising her for putting Emma Frost in her place and commenting on how they want some 'private tutoring' from her (can anyone honestly blame them?) Jean ripoff dropped an ominous line. She threatened to and I quote "I'll leave you as a cinder." It sounded like something a Phoenix-wielded redhead would do to a woman who stole her husband from her. And when asked about this remark, Hope's response was and I quote yet again "I dunno. It's just what came to mind."
Now under other circumstances, I would make a big deal of this because it is a pretty clear hint linking Jean ripoff not only to the Phoenix Force, but to Jean Grey's hostility towards Emma Frost. It would be a great moment and one that would have left me picking up pieces of my brain from the floor. But again, Nick Lowe killed the mystery. We know this girl isn't Jean Grey. She just looks like her and has the Phoenix Force. That's like saying we know Elton John isn't gay. He just looks like it and acts like it. It's an utterly asinine premise that really kills the impact of this scene and this series for that matter.
It seems everyone wants a piece of Jean ripoff. That shows how popular redheads are in the Marvel universe. When Jean ripoff returns to her room, she finds a letter written to her by Beast. Now if Charles Xavier has been a pariah, Beast has been a rectal wart for the X-men in that he left after Second Coming. The whole secrets and kill squads just didn't do it for him. Never mind the fact he didn't offer any alternatives. Apparently whining about it is supposed to be the only recourse. All he does is warn her about how others are going to try and mold her in their image. He also gives her a bit of advice, which is to leave.
Really? That's it? Just leave? No other guidelines? Just encourage a teenage girl with the fucking Phoenix Force to run away? I thought Hank McCoy was supposed to be the smart one! That has got to be one of the dumbest ideas ever put forth since someone pitched the concept of reality TV! Hank McCoy used to be the moral compass of the X-men. Now he's a fucking idiot who looks like an overgrown cat.
Since everyone seems to be seeking out the mutant messiah, she decides it's time to be proactive and seek others out. The first one she confronts is Wolverine because let's face it, redheads can't resist the guy and he can't resist him. He was also part of the team that came to the future to rescue her during Messiah War. Yet since she came back, Wolverine has avoided her the same way Flavor Flav avoids child support. This could have been yet another ominous hint if not for Nick Lowe. Wolverine doesn't give her any heartfelt speeches. He just tells Jean ripoff to live her life and he wants no part of it. When she leaves he says it's for the best. If memory serves me right, he said the same thing about Jean Grey when he decided he was going to stop trying to bone her. Again, would have been great, but because it's been spoiled the only feeling readers will get is akin to food poisoning.
So rather than beat around the bush any further, she goes straight to the man in charge and the man who raised Cable, Scott Summers. She doesn't even let him talk. She just walks in and tells him that more mutants are going to be emerging and the Five Lights are going to be the team on the front lines. They won't be like X-Force or anything. They'll be a rescue team, one that just happens to be comprised of a bunch of under-aged teenagers including one whose only inclination is to fight or fuck. Now she also demands that Cyclops not micromanage. She wants to make her own mistakes and learn from them. This would be all well and good if it weren't for yet another ominous hint that isn't so ominous. While she's demanding this, the Phoenix Force flashes in her eyes and in the background. There's no ambiguity here. It's clear for everyone to see. She might as well have Jean ripoff tattooed on her forehead.
Now I really want to be struck by this scene, but again there's no point. What's the use of hinting at something when the mystery was already spoiled? That's like seeing a movie with a twist ending for which some asshole in line already spoiled the twist. It kills the impact. We know this girl looks like Jean, dresses like Jean, and has the Phoenix Force like Jean. Part of the appeal of this series was developing the mystery of that connection. Well we know the answer thanks to Nick Lowe. Hope isn't connected to Jean Grey. She's just a character who blatantly rips off everything that made Jean Grey memorable. Instead of exciting me, this scene just pisses me off because it's completely pointless.
Whether or not Cyclops sees that Phoenix emblem isn't clear. He may just be ignoring it so he doesn't have the urge to sleep with a teenage girl that looks like his wife. He still accepts Jean ripoff's proposal. He agrees to allow the lights to train and for their team to be involved in missions related to new mutants. This would be a wonderful moment in the complicated relationship between these two if the Uncanny X-men Annual that clearly takes place after this didn't show Jean ripoff becoming a complete brat. So whatever impact this comic had was killed before it ever hit the racks.
Jean ripoff delivers the news to her lights. They're officially a team now. That seems to be the secondary point of his issue beyond dropping hints on a mystery that has already been spoiled. The Five Lights are now a team and they're being led by a blatant ripoff of a character who could go Dark Phoenix if she has a bad day. This idea ranks right up there with the movie of Battlefield Earth in terms of feasibility. At the very least Laurie appears to be naked on the final page so that's a nice bonus.
So there you go. I made it through the review without pulling my hair out and throwing my laptop out the window. Generation Jean ripoff has lost a lot of appeal now that there's no mystery or intrigue. This is just a series about a new X-men team being led by a character that's a blatant ripoff of another character. It's not without it's charm. The Five Lights are still good characters even if they didn't get to say much in this issue. I will give credit to Kieron Gillen for delivering solid characterization in this issue. Not all the lights are the same. Some are more reluctant than others and Lauire appears to be the only one questioning their blind loyalty to Jean ripoff. Idie still hasn't said a single word in nearly two issues. Teon tries to hump something in every issue. And Gabriel...well, he's a hormonal teenage boy and there's nothing wrong with that.
If the announcements surrounding the Hope/Jean mystery hadn't been spoiled, I would be singing high praises of this book. Kieron Gillen's writing is a lot more refined and enjoyable than Matt Fraction. He has a great feel for the X-books. I'm glad he's writing Uncanny X-men now. However, all the depth and refinement of this issue is pretty much killed with the knowledge that the Hope/Jean mystery is basically a farce. It's been confirmed that there's no connection between Jean Grey and Hope Summers. Hope is nothing more than a Jean Grey derivative. That would be somewhat okay if the Marvel universe didn't already have a character like that in Rachel Grey, who is still alive last I checked. You know the whole two's company, three's a crowd saying? Well that definitely applies here. A Jean ripoff of a character kills any sense of novelty or enjoyment because looking at this girl with all her Phoenix-hints surrounding her, she's still inescapably tied to Jean Grey. She's basically a replacement as much as she is a ripoff and that's just insulting to fans who actually care whether or not these characters are ripoffs.
Again, I don't blame Kieron Gillen for this. His writing is awesome. I commend him for it. If I were to just grade his writing, I would give it a 5 out of 5. But given the context of Generation Jean ripoff and all the spoilage it now bears, the best score I can give this book is a 2.5 out of 5. You're not missing much in this series. There's no more mystery. The only appeal is the Five Lights. If you like them, this book is still worth picking up. If you can overlook Jean ripoff elements then it's still enjoyable. If you care at all whether or not the comics you read are full of lies, red herrings, and outright farces then you'll only want to bang your head against the wall reading this book. Nuff said.