Monday, May 16, 2011

X-men #11 - Rebuilding Awesome

Life is all about second chances (and beer). We all fuck up at some point. We all wake up with our asses sore with note stapled to our left butt-cheek at some point in our lives. What makes life worth living is dusting yourself off, wiping the blood from your asshole, and taking another plunge into the shit-storm that is daily life. That brings me to X-men #11. That may sound like an odd transition, but bear with me. There is a point and it’s not just drunken ramblings (mostly anyways).

A while back, I was giving mixed reviews to the new X-men series that was launched under Victor Gischler’s pen. I had my ups and downs with the Curse of the Mutants arc, but it ended up tripping over a cowpie in the end. I kept following it into the next arc, which started very promising. Then it resorted to using lizard people, shitty art, and a less-than-stellar crossover with Spider-Man. I didn’t even finish the arc. I couldn’t make it through the next issue without falling asleep. They weren’t terrible, but they were boring as hell and there were much better X-books to choose from.

Now that cure for insomnia is over and X-men is back with another story. This time it’s a one-shot. It involves Jubilee, who was the only saving grace from Curse of the Mutants. It doesn’t involve gimmicky crossovers or trips through the New York City sewer. For that reason, I’ve decided to give this series a second chance. It may have underperformed or just been outshined by so many other quality titles, but it’s still an X-book so I’m willing to give it a fair shot. I’ll only be half-drunk reviewing this issue. You’ll see why at the end!

X-men #11 might as well have been the fifth issue of the Wolverine and Jubilee mini. It starts with Jubilee, who is now a vampire in addition to being a former mutant teenage girl. She has more issues than the entire Kardashian family and now that she has control of herself, her friends try to cheer her up by throwing a birthday party. For someone who is now part of the undead, that’s like reminding the beef in a cheeseburger of the day it was slaughtered.

Jubilee is understandably bemused. Cake and party hats may work for eight-year-olds, but not teenage vampires still fuming over the last two Twilight movies. So Jubilee leaves everybody else to gorge on the cake. Wolverine in a marked change of pace from the Wolverine and Jubilee mini (which you should totally get if you haven’t already) decides to give her some space. This doesn’t stop Professor Xavier from giving her a little pep talk. That’s right! Xavier, the guy who has basically been a glorified extra for the past few years, actually has a few words with one of his students. It shouldn’t be that jarring, but it is. That’s either because it’s overdue or Marvel’s foresight is just that bad.

Xavier’s way of cheering Jubilee up involves a little story time. Somehow that’s supposed to work just as well on a confused teenager as it is a seven-year-old whining for her binkie. Go figure. At least the story doesn’t involve pink ponies. It involves a recollection of Xavier’s days as a traveler. Back when he had the use of his legs and wasn’t regarded as a dick for keeping secrets from his students, he was a strapping (yet bald) young man looking for adventure. One of his adventures led him to Kenya, where he was investigating reports of animal mutilations. And unlike the alien stories from the American Midwest, it didn’t involve anal probing.

The Professor’s investigation leads him to a rowdy bar. He boldly goes in without a gun. That’s like bare-backing a prostitute in Brazil with blisters on her snatch. But he’s a young Charles Xavier, damn it! He lives (and will later be crippled by) this kind of danger! He doesn’t even finish one beer before he comes across a suspicious loudmouth who knocks over tables and beats the shit out of a guy who accused him of cheating at cards. In other words, he could be any guy you ever went drinking with in downtown Philadelphia. But Xavier is psychic so he’s pretty sure he’s onto something.

For a moment it looks like a classic Kenyan bar fight is about to break out. Then a tough-looking Russian woman enters the bar and said loudmouth suddenly loses all feeling in his scrotum. Her name is Svetlana and Xavier finds out that she’s been investigating the animal mutilations as well. She seems to think it involves more than just cannibals with too much free time. She’s a mercenary that was paid to figure out what the hell is going on and if necessary, shoot it. You know someone is desperate when they hire a woman that can castrate a man with her eyebrows.

Always one to follow the psycho-bitches, Xavier trails Svetlana and her mercenary he-bitches. She leads them to top of a mound that looks like the site of the last Rob Zombie music video. Once he follows them to the top of the mound, he joins them in an area that looks like Ted Nugants basement after he’s spent a month in a wildlife preserve. It shows they’re on the right path and they should prepare to shit themselves if they find whoever was capable of doing this to Africa’s most dangerous predators. 

They don’t find this super-predator. Like any other predator, it finds them. Except it is a he and he kicks the ass of all of Svetlana’s men. He does it with just a stick too. That’s like Luke Skywalker beating the Death Star with a pocket knife. But Svetlana wouldn’t qualify as a tough-nosed bitch if she ran away screaming.

The fight doesn’t last long. The mysterious man who looks like a young Jet Li or an anorexic Rambo makes quick work of Svetlana. It turns out she’s not the super-bitch she comes off as. She’s still beaten with the same stick. I’m not sure if this is Gischler’s way of showing gender equality, but it sends the right message. This guy can kick some serious ass.

Xavier, being the curious young psychic, peers into his brain and discovers that this guy isn’t handy with a stick. His name is Raizo Koda. It sounds like a Japanese shaving kit, but he’s older than my grandfather’s underwear and in ten times as better shape. It turns out he wasn’t just slaughtering animals to channel his inner Teddy Roosevelt. Svetlana and her may have stumbled on a small vampire settlement. Now these aren’t the kind of vampires that set traps like pedophiles with candy and windowless vans. They just want to be left alone. Raizo is sticking his neck out for his buddies and leading Svetlana away. He reaches out to Xavier, who helps by telepathically urging them to take a vacation. Maybe get themselves a case of vodka, go ice fishing, and strangle a grizzly. You know, a real Russian holiday!

The moral of the story for all the boys and girls out there is that vampires is people do. Heroic people just like the X-men who stick their fangs out for friends and beat up some asshole mercenaries who don’t know how to mind their own business. He’s not like Dracula or Xarus. He’s his own vamp and he’s pretty badass too. Jubilee respects guys like that and it does help turn that teenage angst into regular teen drama. It doesn’t solve her problems, but it does make her feel better. So when Xavier offers to join her in her party, she accepts. It’s a nice moment that may have been redone in countless sitcoms, but it still gives the same warm and fuzzy feeling to messed up teenage girls everywhere. At least they’re not vampires...and they don’t sparkle!

So in the end we’re left with a pep talk, a trick down memory lane, and the most redundant birthday surprise ever. Let’s face it, these aren’t going to make your asshole clench from shock and awe. It’s not going to bore you to death either. There is a solid story here and it does help progress from what transpired in Curse of the Mutants. Jubilee needed a lesson in how to shrug your shoulders when life gives you the finger. The story about Xavier’s Kenya adventure wasn’t ground-breaking, but it wasn’t contrived either. It fits into his character and it makes a point, one from which Jubilee can draw inspiration. It’s also a long overdue issue where Charles Xavier, the guy who literally put the X in X-men, actually has a prominent role. Given the events of the past few years, that’s a lot more jarring than it should be.

This issue is decent within it’s own context. It’s not meant to be on the same scale as Curse of the Mutants. It’s more of an aside issue, in other words it’s got a touch of filler. All the action is in the form of a flashback. It helps that the issue is eventful, but only to a point. There’s only so much buzz you can get from a flashback that’s basically an after-school special for a troubled teenage vampire. It’s like watered down beer. It won’t get you as high as you want and you’ll have to piss a lot later on, but it’ll still get you high.

I’m glad Marvel is trying to give Jubilee more face time. She’s become more prominent in the past year than she has in the past decade. Somehow Marvel found a way to continue this while giving a chance for Charles Xavier to show that before he got his legs busted up, he was quite the badass. He’s like a young, white Charles Barkley. He can still connect with his students and help them in their own right. For that, he deserves credit.

Overall, I’m glad I gave X-men #11 another chance. This book doesn’t make me forget the lackluster issues that preceded it, but it does give me hope that this title can still succeed. It has some hefty competition from the likes of Uncanny X-Force, Uncanny X-men, and X-men Legacy. But at least it isn’t being left in the dust. However, it still has a ways to go. For a final score, I give X-men #11 a 3 out of 5. This title has a lot of potential with Chris Yost coming aboard for a bit and with the upcoming events surrounding Schism. I’m ready for Marvel to make good use of it rather than relegate it to capitalizing on the popularity of vampires. 
Nuff said!


  1. Between this and the way he was written in Prelude to Schism we might have finally seen the end of the "Niccolo MachiaXavier" version of Professor X, and it's about damn time if you ask me.


  2. I agree. Xavier has been so damaged as a character that I have to wonder if Marvel just ran out of ideas with the guy. I refuse to believe that the brilliant people Marvel hires can't figure out a new role for Xavier. I like that he showed some of his old mentoring skills here. He can still reach young mutants in a profound way and I hope this isn't a one-time event. Perhaps with Schism, he'll show more of that classic mentoring role. Thanks for your comments!