Monday, May 30, 2011
Uncanny X-men #537 - Intangible Awesome
Anybody who has followed this blog sober knows I have my biases. Anybody who has read the Uncanny X-men run of Matt Fraction knows he has his biases. He's about a subtle as a brick of C4 going off around your head at times. I'm not exactly subtle either, but I try to be honest even if I can't be sober. That's something you deal with when you read or write comics. You're going to confront biases along the way. Sometimes they make the story better. Sometimes they're annoying as hell. They're like that dog that humps your leg and the only way to get him off is to ignore him until he's finished.
Uncanny X-men was very much the Cyclops and Emma Frost show under Matt Fraction. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Who wouldn't want to read a comic about a kick-ass leader with many crippling personal issues and a hot blonde who goes into a crippling withdrawal if she doesn't show a certain amount of cleavage? I enjoyed it at some points. At others I craved a bit more variety. Cyclops and Emma Frost are major players in other X-books. There are other characters with unresolved stories. That's why I was so glad to see Kieron Gillen address one of those stories, this one involving Colossus and Kitty Pryde.
Uncanny X-men #535 and Uncanny X-men #536 began a new arc. It brought back our old friends from Breakworld, which contains a race of beings who look at slasher films the same way pre-teen girls look at Twilight movies. After their encounter with the X-men in Astonishing, their world went to shit. They came to the X-men for help and like kid who finds a dirty puppy foaming at the mouth, they let them set up shop on Utopia. This ends up being as big a mistake as you would expect it to be. Kruun, still pissed over losing his arm in Astonishing, decided to get his sweet revenge against Colossus and Kitty. To do that he de-powered Magneto and seized a shard of the bullet originally meant to fuck Earth over like Nigerian banker. His rampage continues in Uncanny X-men #537. With Magneto subdued he goes right after Colossus, who is snuggling up with Kitty in bed. It's not as sexy as it sounds. She's still in that ridiculous space suit. I'm sure there's a fetish for that shit out there somewhere. I don't think it works well here.
Now setting aside what a dick move it is to bust in on a guy when he's getting cozy with his girlfriend, Kruun is making it clear that he still blames Colossus for his piss poor lot in life and is inclined to take it out on him. To get him to go along with this alien hissy fit, he threatens to give Kitty Pryde the OJ Simpson treatment with the hunk of metal he swiped from Magneto. This sounds pretty standard for an asshole alien, but remember that Kitty is stuck in phase mode. She can't be cut by anything, but for some reason this metal can affect her. That means she can't escape it and Colossus is left to play Kruun's game and without his powers. Oh? Did I mention that? He did the same thing to Colossus that he did to Magneto. He used the cure (yet another element from Whedon's run) to render him as frail as any oversized Russian farm boy. That's still sounds pretty tough, but then again Breakworld was no hash bar in Amsterdam either.
So without his powers, Kruun leads Colossus and Kitty to a rocky ledge outside. It's not a great place to stage a fight. By Breakworld's standards, it's a jacuzzi suite at the Playboy Mansion. He doesn't just boast at how he's going to fuck Colossus up though. He actually puts a little heart into his douche-baggery and you can't help but respect that. Losing to Colossus on Breakworld wasn't just humiliating. It was a personal dishonor to him as a badass alien. He's not out to avenge his world. He's trying to reclaim his dignity. Let's face it, if someone you considered a weak little boy make you look like a complete ass you would be pissed too. He's also making sure Colossus doesn't weasel out of it by keeping Kitty in play. He uses the metal shard to stab her in the shoulder and since she can't touch it, the only way Colossus is helping her is if he goes through Kruun.
It's here where Kruun does something that I as a Kitty Pryde fan appreciate a great deal. He tells her to take off that damn space suit. I know I keep making comments on it, but I really can't be kind about it. That thing looks goofy as hell on her. Granted, she's wearing a uniform underneath. If she was just in her underwear (which is all Colossus is wearing by the way), that would add another element. Sadly, Terry Dodson isn't able to show that much T&A. I suppose that sort of thing is reserved for Emma Frost, not that it's a bad thing.
Now that Kitty Pryde can't talk to him and has a hunk of metal lodged in her arm, the fight can begin. It goes as well as you might expect. Without his powers, Colossus isn't very colossal anymore. He gets in a good early shot to show Kruun that he doesn't appreciate him stabbing his girlfriend, but even a one-armed badass alien warrior is still a lot stronger. It's a fight that lasts a good two pages. It seems short, but you really wouldn't expect a fight this unfair to be that long. At least Colossus shows he's willing to fight for his girlfriend in his underwear and without any armor. You won't see a fight that messed up outside of old reruns of Cops.
Kruun beats Colossus, but he's not a total dick about it. He still says Colossus fought well and is to be admired. He doesn't laugh like a jackass at how he's superior for beating an underpowered enemy. He's perfectly inclined to kill him with the same shard he used to stab Kitty. But he doesn't. Instead he just stabs him so he starts bleeding out. Now it's not clear why , but it is clear that Kruun isn't just looking to butcher his enemies. He's not that kind of villain. That's what makes him compelling. But once he takes the shard he stabbed Kitty with, he encounters a new problem. Kitty Pryde slips away by phasing into the ground. Now even though she can't talk because of her phasing (don't ask me why, I'm sure Stephen Hawkings couldn't explain the physics being that shit) she can still summon the entire X-men to give Kruun the same treatment NBC gave the Wonder Woman pilot.
Since Kruun can't have some whiney teenage girl fucking up his victory, he goes after her. Kitty phases all over Utopia, looking for someone to help her against Kruun. She first goes to Cyclops and Emma Frost, who have the authority (and the boobs) to inspire all mutants to rip off Kruun's other arm and shove it up his ass. Unfortunately, Kruun thought ahead. Before he came to Colossus, he paralyzed Cyclops and hit Emma Frost with the equivalent of a roofie martini. He doesn't explain how. He just explains they can't help her.
While this is an unusual (yet still effective) way of taking Cyclops and Emma Frost out of the picture, it is a bit contrived. Kruun already demonstrated his cunning when he took down Magneto. That was a very satisfying part in the last issue. That same cunning allowed him to subdue Cyclops and Emma Frost, but we never see it. That sounds like a pretty important moment. Even if it's just a flashback, it seems glossed over. As a reader, it feels like we missed out. It's like watching scrambled porn. You know what's happening is awesome, but you don't get to see the juicy bits.
So Kitty moves onto Wolverine. Now if Kruun somehow managed to keep Wolverine docile by some off-panel bullshit, that would be a big problem. Pretty much anyone who has tried to hold Wolverine down has either ended up dead or missing limbs. Thankfully, Gillen doesn't push it that far. When Kitty Pryde reaches Wolverine, Kruun boasts that he did something to make sure he couldn't hear them. That doesn't make much a difference because Wolverine is still able to smell his ugly alien ass. So while Kruun is cunning, he's no evil super-genius. He's still plenty ballsy (stupid) for thinking he can keep Wolverine out of a good fight.
So Kitty finally gets some backup and Kruun faces a much fairer fight. Wolverine makes a few nice comments about how he wants Kruun's other arm as a trophy. He also takes a subtle potshot at Cyclops, which I know certain fans will always appreciate. It's a much more intense fight, not nearly as one-sided as the fight against Colossus. This one does seem to last a bit shorter, but it doesn't end. A fight against Wolverine is usually a fight that takes more than one issue to cover so in that sense it's a nice action-packed dash of sprinkles atop the cake already presented earlier in the book.
While Wolverine and Kruun are going at it, Kitty keeps running for more help. Her boyfriend is bleeding to death so she still has reason to be concerned. She runs down to the science team to find anyone who didn't sleep through first aid training or watched more than three seasons of House. She ends up finding Kruun's squeeze. Up until this point, she seems like the less homicidal part of the relationship. At first it looks like she's prepared to help Kitty. Then when she asks if she's willing to do anything to save her boyfriend, she does the most logical thing to help her. She slashes her across the throat.
Now maybe in Breakworld this counts as dry humping, but it's still a nice little twist. Granted, it's not too surprising. This woman did see fit to shack up with Kruun. She doesn't get in bed or whatever they fuck on in Breakworld without having a thing or two in common with the guy. Solving problems through violence sounds like a great commonality to share over a date over. That along with a Pirates of the Caribbean movie and you've got yourself a Breakworld romantic comedy! While it may not be surprising, it leaves both Kitty and Colossus in a dire state. They're both bleeding to death and Kruun is still on the lose. There are a lot of problems left to resolve and a lot of blood stains to clean up, giving plenty of reason to look forward to the next issue!
So the book ends with a bloody twist. Okay, it's not the Usual Suspects. You're not going to get the same feeling you got when you first watched the Matrix or first the skin of an orange while stoned. But it's still a nice twist. It follows an exciting, well-connected plot. It flows nicely and has more than enough intrigue to keep the reader guessing. It's not one of those comics you can just breeze through, note who beats the shit out of who, and understand at the end. You actually have to read over the pages and absorb the damn story to get a feel for what's going on. If you're too lazy to do that, you're too lazy to wipe yourself after taking a shit as well.
Kieron Gillen continues to show a nice, deep style. He provides the kind of rich substance that was hard to come by during Matt Fraction's run. But unlike Matt Fraction, the action doesn't always flow smoothly. The parts where Cyclops and Emma Frost were shown to be neutralized off-panel was a little underhanded. It seemed like a convenient way to get them out of the way. It would have been nice to see Kruun trick those two the same way he tricked Magneto. That would have made him look all the more badass. Unfortunately, that part was glossed over while the part with Wolverine left little to the imagination. I'm still glad that Kitty Pryde finally got to do something more meaningful than run around in a space suit. Even though she couldn't talk, she did more in this issue than she has in years. That alone makes this issue worth getting. The end is surprising without being too over-the-top. The book is mostly a drawn out fight, but it doesn't feel like one. It has just the right mix of action and plot, even if the details are a light at times.
Overall, this was a fun issue. Kitty Pryde fans will probably get drunk off this issue for the next month or so. It had the feel of a classic car chase scene mixed with mutants and killer aliens. Not a bad combination! Kieron Gillen makes it work. Terry Dodson's art makes it visually appealing on every level. There's a lot to love about this book and only a few shortcomings to speak of. They're easy to overlook even if you can't ignore them. So for Uncanny X-men #537, I give it a 4.5 out of 5. Uncanny X-men fluctuated a bit during the final stretch of Matt Fraction's run. Kieron Gillen has brought a great sense of stability to this book. It feels like THE primary X-book. It's right up there with Uncanny X-Force in terms of value and quality. For anyone who has followed X-books for any length of time, it's a sight that should bring tears of joy to your eyes. Nuff said!