Monday, June 6, 2011
X-men #12 - Retroactive and Proactive Awesome
After reading a book like Giant Sized X-men #1 my expectations for the next part are well...giant so to speak. The story that Chris Yost started in Giant Sized X-men was special and not just because he told a great story in the present. He was able to tell an equally great story in the past with the Original Five. That's like juggling knives, giving Joan Rivers a face lift, and teaching Sarah Palin advanced calculus. It was a story that could have easily been two separate comics, one in the present and one in the Original Five era. It probably would have been decent, but it wouldn't have been nearly as awesome. Mixing the past and the present in a story is difficult enough. Mixing it with the X-men's history, which is more convoluted than Apple's user agreements, is cock-smashingly hard.
Giant Sized X-men #1 was not a stand-alone issue. It was set up to continue in the adjectiveless X-men series. Now I'm glad Marvel is doing this because for a while this X-men series had been so underwhelming that it might as well have come with a free sample of Ambient. X-men #11 was a nice shift. I reviewed the issue and wasn't completely put to sleep as a result. Chris Yost is giving Victor Gischler a breather, which seems overdue. He's continuing the story with the Evolutionaries in X-men #12. So for the first time since the early parts of Curse of the Mutants (before it crashed and burned) I was excited about this series. Between this and Fear Itself, I needed a boat-load of heroine to keep me calm.
Before anyone picks up this issue, go out and get Giant Sized X-men #1. Not that it's completely necessary to read this issue, but that comic was so good that to read this without reading the comic that came before it is worthy of more shame than all the bestiality in Tijuana. That comic introduced the Evolutionaries, a group of badass looking super-beings who see fit to judge an entire species as it evolves. It's like American Idol with Charles Darwin as the judge. If your species is deemed stagnant, you get voted off and that usually involves a touch of genocide. So it's only slightly worse than being scorned by Simon Cowell. The Neo attacked the X-men in the present and found this out the hard way. In the past, the Evolutionaries showed up to the Original Five and tried to do the same to homo sapians. It obviously didn't work. Jean Grey of all people did something to prevent it. Now the Evolutionaries are back and they're looking to correct their mistake.
X-men #11 starts out in the past. The very distant past before the Original Five were proplasm floating around in their parents' loins. In the caveman era that the Texas School Board refuses to acknowledge, an oddly dressed group of super-beings are overlooking the newly evolved homo sapians. It's not clear if these are the same Evolutionaries, but they sure as hell act like them. They act like the Celestials int that they're playing the role of ultimate judge. If a species doesn't evolve, they're fucked. It's evolution 101 with tacky costumes.
Flash forward to the future, which happens to be the past in the context of the comics. By the way, if your head starts hurting when trying to make sense of time in Marvel comics don't worry. That's normal. A line of blow usually does the trick (sorry, but aspirin just doesn't cut it). Charles Xavier tries to reason with the Evolutionaries while the original five, who are still immature teenagers at this point, resist the urge to impersonate John Rambo. Xavier gives the Evolutionaries his peaceful approach. Humans are dicks at times, but he prefers to co-exist with them rather than wipe them out. It seems so reasonable, but the Evolutionaries deem that counter-productive to their survival.
Now the rest of the team isn't in the mood to moderate a debate. The Evolutionaries want to kill all humans and that doesn't sit well because some like Bobby and Warren still have parents. And as it just so happens, their parents are human. So as you can imagine, they're not going to be nearly as reasonable. Bobby being the youngest decides to be the most immature as is often his role. He tries to attack the Evolutionaries head on. He might as well be hammering a nail with a feather. The Evolutionaries are about as thrilled as Donald Trump in line at the DMV.
Yet to their credit, they don't turn on the X-men. Remember, they're trying to help the mutant race. They make that clear even as the rest of the team joins the battle. Remember, this is the First Class. They're not quite used to dealing with cosmic threats just yet. This is pre-Phoenix Jean. Beast and Angel get into the act. Cyclops takes a few shots as well. The Evolutionaries take it like cross between Chuck Norris and Ghandi. They don't fight back, but they do make it clear they're no punching bags. At one point they knock Beast and Angel back, but they don't play too rough. They make it clear they could kill them all while casually yawning and humming the opening theme to House. But they don't.
This is part of what makes the Evolutionaries so compelling. They're not some dangerous force seeking outright destruction. They genuinely believe they're helping the mutant race. The X-men attacking them is an inconvenience that they could easily brush aside, but they don't. A cosmic power in comics usually looks down at humans the same way a kid looks down at ants. Their motives here are different and intriguing. It puts a different twist on this fight.
Eventually, it's Xavier who stops the X-men's attack, which by the way is taking place completely inside his study. If you missed it, you're not high. It's just disorienting. The background kind of fades into that bullet time that you see in animes. When the Evolutionaries figure out that Charles Xavier doesn't speak for all mutant kind, they decide that talking to him isn't a productive use of their time. So they leave. Xavier tries to plead with them, but they don't listen. He might as well be trying to teach modesty to Kim Jong Ill. So when they leave, the X-men are left scratching their heads. But Xavier being the world's greatest psychic at that time (again, it's pre-Phoenix Jean) knows what they're up to. They need to find the leader of all mutant kind.
Before he can clarify, the story goes back to the present on Utopia. Here, the Evolutionaries remind Cyclops how many times humanity and even other mutants have tried to fuck the mutant race. They mention the sentinels, the Legacy Virus, and House of M. They're not entirely wrong in saying that mutants have screwed the pooch to the point where the pooch is utterly traumatized and begging to be put down. However, Cyclops still points out that they're alive and the mutant race is no longer doomed to extinction. He continues to tell everyone to not attack. This doesn't go over well, even with Bobby and Angel. Emma is exceptionally pissed even though she has no right to be.
As an aside, it's worth pointing out that Emma chides Cyclops for keeping secrets about the Evolutionaries. Never mind the fact that he didn't remember up to this point, but in one of the most recent arcs in Uncanny she was doing the exact same thing. She kept a pretty nasty secret about Sebastian Shaw and flat out lied to him about how she handled it. This comes after Cyclops came clean about X-Force. She's a complete hypocrite here. I'm not sure if Chris Yost read those issues of Uncanny, but it makes Emma look more a bimbo than just a bitch.
Cyclops basically delivers a blanket order via the telepaths. No one is to attack the Evolutonaries. He basically tries to do what Charles Xavier did in the past. He tries to reason with them that human kind need not go the way Windows phones. Seeing as how Xavier couldn't reason with these guys, it really isn't all that surprising that Cyclops doesn't succeed. Keep in mind, the Evolutionaries were deceived. They're a bit more pissed now than they were during the First Class days. So when Cyclops fails to make a decent argument, they counter his argument with their first real attack. Lucky for Cyclops, Wolverine of all people pushes him out of the way. Now Wolverine could have let Cyclops die, which would mean he would have Jean all to himself when she comes back from the dead. But he didn't. That's why Wolverine is awesome despite being a prick at times.
Once the Evolutionaries start firing, shit gets real. They ditch the passive aggressive approach from the First Class era and adopt the Bush Doctrine. They go from gentle blue to burning orange. The X-men get Cyclops out of the way so he can't issue any more hippie commands. Sparks start flying. Shit starts blowing up and it looks pretty fucking sweet. Seeing as how Emma Frost gave the order and she's banging the leader, everyone listens to her. It's not logical, but it shows you the power of a hot chick with big boobs.
Cyclops makes it clear that he respectfully disagrees with Emma in a way that may or may not make his dick hate him until the end of time. While the rest of the team is fighting off the Evolutionaries, Arcangel flies him back to his girlfriend before she becomes too drunk with power. She tries to get Pixie to teleport him away. Then he reminds her that he's the one with the working memory here. He knows a bit more about this than anyone else. He says once again in a way that will prevent Emma from sewing her legs shut forever that they need to get a certain him away from Utopia. But who could that him be?
The answer to this question like most everything in the Karate Kid movies is found in the past. Remember that spokesmen for all of mutant kind that the Evolutionaries asked for and didn't get? Much like a quality service at a Best Buy during a shift change? Well they found another after Xavier proved uncooperative. They figure this one is a lot more open to the idea of wiping out humanity. It's Magneto and his old school Brotherhood of Mutants. He has the attention of the Evolutionaries. They might as well be Santa Clause to him because if he's even remotely interested in being a bigger prick, the Evolutionaries would be more than happy to oblige. It's a great way to end the issue and it raises the stakes for the next issue.
So the story unfolds, asses are kicked in both the present and past, and the mystery deepens at the end. It sets the stage for an interesting conflict between the past and present. In the past Magneto was an enemy, an unrepentant douche-bag who wanted nothing more than to see humanity wither away like a bad case of crabs. In the present, he's not quite as big a douche-bag. He's still not the friendliest guy to be around, but he's on the side of the X-men. He actually takes orders from Cyclops when in the past he wouldn't take an order from Taco Bell. If he's supposed to speak for mutant kind, then both humans and mutants are in more trouble than a million-dollar sports car on the set of a Michael Bay movie.
There's a lot of quality awesome in both the present and past with this book. It doesn't feel like it's on the same scale as Giant Sized X-men #1, but it still feels like a great comic injected with whatever steroids are keeping Sylvester Stallone ripped. The mystery surrounding the Evolutionaries is a great plot and Chris Yost developed it very well. I can't find too many flaws without really nit-picking. The only caveat some readers may have is that the fight between the Original Five and the Evolutionaries took place completely within Xavier's office. There wasn't as much action, or at least that's how it seemed when compared to the fight in the present. It was still plenty epic and it's no reason to dock any points from this book.
There's no way around it. X-men #11 and Giant Size X-men #1 are great books that compliment each other perfectly. They still have that amazing two stories for the price of one deal. One is in the present and one is in the past. Both work perfectly in unison. They offer just the right insight and progression. It's a tough balancing act for any book to follow and by succeeding, this book more than earns a 5 out of 5. It's quite possibly the best book in the new adjectiveless X-men series yet. Given how underwhelming the last few stories have been, I'll go so far to say as this book has raised the bar. Since there is more story left to tell, there's a chance it could be raised again with the next issue. Nuff said!