Thursday, July 28, 2011
Uncanny X-Force #12 - Dramatic Awesome
Well bend me over, kiss my ass, and shave the hair off my balls! The wait is over! The next issue of Uncanny X-Force has arrived! Has it really been that long? In the time between issue 11 and issue 12, Casey Anthony became a free woman and Amy Whinehouse went to that big rehab clinic in a sky. Damn! It has been too long! For a time, this series was on rapid fire. Rick Remender churned out quality stories the same way Russia churns out quality vodka and tennis stars/cover girls. He really stepped up his game as he began the Dark Angel Saga, his dimension hopping uber-arc that linked 616 with Age of Apocalypse. The last issue ended with X-Force stranded in Age of Apocalypse and Wolverine finally confronting a version of Jean Grey that he doesn't have to immediately stab. To have to wait this long for a story like that is like having to wait 134 days for the NFL to get back in business. Wait...bad example!
Now I'll be the first to point out that crossovers are gimmicks by definition. They can be pretty damn cheap sometimes. They're like the reality TV of comics. However, just like over 95 percent or reality TV is trash, there's a small 5 percent where crossovers can be pretty damn awesome. What makes Uncanny X-Force crossing over with 616 so compelling is that Age of Apocalypse has a number of characters that are currently shacking up with Amy Whinehouse in 616. Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, and Sabretooth are all dead and buried and Marvel has little inclination to bring their asses back. So instead, we get a story where X-Force gets to confront these characters and we get to see them in a way that isn't the same as a full blown resurrection, but it's something none-the-less. It's like having your cake and eating it to. It's not quite the same. It's still a gimmick. But it can still be awesome! It takes a damn good writer to make a gimmick awesome and Rick Remender has shown with Uncanny X-Force that he's pretty damn good.
Now in the last issue, it was a fairly compelling moment when Wolverine and X-Force confronted Age of Apocalypse Nightcrawler and Sabretooth. But the real pants-shitting reaction came when he met up with Age of Apocalypse Jean Grey, who unlike her 616 counterpart was never cock-blocked from shacking up with Wolverine. So when he saw her and she saw him, it was a big fucking deal. Rick Remender ended the last issue with them seeing one another for a reason. That's exactly where this issue begins.
Now I'll also go on record as saying that I think the Wolverine/Jean Grey relationship in 616 is more fucked than a three dollar whore outside a Viagra factory. But Age of the Apocalypse is one of the few (actually, it's the only) places where the relationship actually worked. So it's awkward for both of them. Wolverine is left with a bottle of whiskey making sense of it, musing how he had such a huge hard-on for Jean Grey. Then Age of Apocalypse Jean comes in and reminds him that the Wolverine she knew is gone and she misses that sweet, feral ass of his. It makes for a powerful moment and one that will send Jean Grey fans into seizures for the next month or so or whenever the hell the next issue comes out.
While Jean is lamenting on how she lost her version of Wolverine, the Wolverine that never got to tap that beautiful ass of hers is musing endlessly on how hot she is and how much he wants to bone her. He does show some reservation to make it seem like he's not a complete prick. He reminds Jean that he's not the same Logan that she fell in love with. He also reminds himself that he's boning someone else at the moment, which would be Melita. That doesn't stop AOA Jean from actually hinting that it might be better if he stayed in the world Apocalypse ravaged just to be with her. So she lost her Wolverine and she's okay with a substitute. Not sure what that says about her, but it's no more fucked up than any of the other relationships Marvel has ever utilized.
Now I'll state again that the Wolverine/Jean relationship was so horribly managed in 616 that I had mixed feelings about this scene. But given that this is AOA Jean, it does have a different context and one that is very well-done. I still have a problem with Remender depicting Jean as the love of Wolverine's life. Never mind his fascination with redhead pre-dated Jean (which would be Rose) and that he came close to marrying Mariko. I disagree strongly with him making it sound like Wolverine is overly hung up on Jean Grey when he still makes pilgrimages to Mariko's grave every year. But that doesn't make the kiss Jean tempts him into any less sweet.
But just like in 616, Wolverine gets cock-blocked before he can enjoy this moment. This time it isn't Cyclops who gets in his way. It's a fucking sentinel. And in the Age of Apocalypse universe, that's a pretty big deal because Apocalypse uses more style in their killer robots in 616. Also keep in mind they're in Atlantis, which means they're fucking underwater so it's a dangerous attack. But AOA Jean shows that she's more badass than even the Jean that Wolverine knew and makes quick work of it. Again, Jean fans should go into their second round of seizures at this point. If you start seeing blue flashes and a face of Teddy Roosevelt calling you a pussy, then it's time to call a doctor.
The sentinel attack means that Apocalypse knows where the X-men are. So that means Atlantis is no longer safe for them (as if anywhere was safe on Age of Apocalypse to begin with). That means Jean and Logan don't have time for a quick bone. They have to rally the troops and make their move. So they meet up with the rest of the Age of Apocalypse misfits, which included a neutered MODOK and a twisted version of X-men that looks like something Alan Moore would write on his lunch break. They discuss their mission, which links to this celestial seed that X-Force needs to save Angel. And since Dark Beast screwed them over (again) by stranding them in Age of Apocalypse, they have to find a way to get back.
So the mission they come up with is two-fold. One team would locate the ruins of a dead celestial to recover the components of the seed. The other would seek out the Age of Apocalypse version of Gateway, whose powers they say should get them back to their world. There's just one problem, one that goes beyond raiding the dead body of a Celestial. Gateway is in the Akkaba prison, which is their version of Guantanamo Bay mixed with Alcatraz. It's not a tourist attraction or a prop in a Michael Moore movie. It's dangerous on a level that even Deadpool can't joke about, but seeing as how Atlantis is now essentially an underwater coffin they really don't have a choice.
Before they head off onto this mission, we get another enema of soap-opera drama. But this is the good kind! The one you pay a prostitute working her way through med-school to do. This time it's Psylocke and Fantomex. Now Fantomex has made no secret of his intent to bone Psylocke. Hell, he seems intent on boning every beautiful woman like any snooty faux French man would. But he's being a hell of a dick to Psylocke because she's trying to save Angel. Everything she's doing on this mission is to save the man she loves and that's a pretty big issue for her. So leave it to Fantomex to be a massive dick-cheese by saying she's deluding herself into thinking that this is healthy for her. What makes it even worse is the man has a point.
Now I normally don't agree with snooty jack-offs like Fantomex, but he hits the nail on the head with Psylocke and not in a way that costs a hundred bucks in Tijuana. He points out that so much of Psylocke's relationship with Angel has been about helping him. That she loves being needed almost as much as she loves the man. There may be some truth to that because throughout Uncanny X-Force, most of their relationship has revolved around Psylocke helping Angel with his Arcangel persona. He's not wrong to point that out. It's a great way to add a new angle to a relationship that has just begun to face such scrutiny.
As expected, Psylocke punches Fantomex in the face for being an asshole. But then in a move that's completely unexpected, she fucking kisses him. Or actually, he kisses her. Yeah, he's a jerk, but he's a jerk that can get a woman's panties wet in all the right ways. He's a guy who doesn't need help and that is something that can appeal to Psylocke. It doesn't come completely out of nowhere since Fantomex has flirted with her before, but it still seems a bit contrived. It's one of the few instances where the cover of a comic isn't a massive tease. But Psylocke does push him away. She makes it clear that she's not giving up on Angel just because some smooth-talking French man told her so, although she is clearly tempted. It adds yet another layer of drama on top of Wolverine having a chance to bone an inter-dimensional version of Jean.
The teams separate before anyone else can try to get in a quick bone. Fantomex's team heads off to find the Celestial. Wolverine and Jean's team heads off to Akkaba. Along the way, Wolverine meets up with Kirika, who is his daughter in Age of Apocalypse. She's like a cross between X-23 and Psylocke, which in and of itself should give everyone with an Asian fetish a six-foot boner. It also gives Wolverine a chance to bond with someone who doesn't have red hair, showing that he's not just out to get freaky with a redhead.
When they arrive at the prison, it's as dark and dreary as you would expect any prison run by Apocalypse. It's a shitty place to find their ticket home, but no worse than a TSA pat down at LAX I suppose. Along the way, Wolverine makes a bold request. He suggests to Jean that since Age of Apocalypse is pretty much fucked that some of them (namely her) comes back to 616 with him. Now this is a hell of a turn. Earlier he was trying to push Jean away because she wasn't the Jean he knew. Now he's asking her to come back? I guess he (and Rick Remender) forgot about Melita. That's quite a shift and one that will leave some with mixed feelings. 616 already has a Jean Grey knock-off in Hope Summers. It doesn't need a psudeo-Jean from another dimension. Luckily, they don't get much of a chance to debate it because Apocalypse's prison guards show up and they're not just overpaid guys in uniforms. They're basically a collection of Marvel heroes and villains that were run through a Marilyn Manson concert. It's as awesome as it sounds.
The team knows this isn't a fight they can win. So rather than push their luck, they let their balls shrivel and make a run for it. Now you would expect in a comic like this that Remender just throw as much action into the scene as possible, but it makes sense when you consider they're not looking to beat the shit out of an Apocalypse-fueled band of super-powered assholes. They're trying to find their ticket home. Well they don't end up running too far because they end up finding it. They also find out what happened to the Wolverine in Age of Apocalypse. Earlier, Jean Grey told a story about how he was lost in a battle against Apocalypse. Well he apparently got better and got a promotion in the process. That's right! Just as Angel is becoming Apocalypse in 616, Wolverine became Apocalypse in AOA! He shows he's not a nice guy when he fucking kills Kirka, the daughter Wolverine never even got a chance to know. That's what X-Force is up against. That's the kind of shit you can only get in a book like this!
So once again, Marvel throws a corpse into the mix to add shock value for a book. Now at this stage in comics, most should be pretty numb to shit like this. But when it's done with such an amazingly awesome backdrop, that numbness is nullified and as overstimulated as Ted Haggard's dick at an Elton John concert. This final moment is like a cherry on top of a perfectly layered cake. This issue was heavy on drama, dumping a lot of ink on soap-opera shit like Jean/Wolverine and Psylocke/Fantomex. One made you go aww and the other made you want to shit out your kidneys. Then in between we get a sentinel attack, an assault by a fucked up collection of biker villains, and the appearance of Wolverocalypse (I know that sounds goofy as hell, but that's what I'm calling him). You couldn't ask for more if it came with a free bag of weed.
If there's any flaw with this book, it's that it took so damn long to get here! I get that awesome shit is worth waiting for, but when a book is so heavy on drama like this one then waiting sure doesn't help. Over time, you get overstimulated by other shit like Fear Itself and Schism. Also, certain fans with certain tastes may be turned off. There are those out there who despise the Jean/Logan relationship and for good reason. You may not agree with Rick Remender's note at the beginning about how Jean Grey was the love of Logan's life. That's bullshit on a stick. He nearly married Mariko and Jean married Cyclops. Remender needs to check up on his history. Then there's the whole issue with Melita. One minute Wolverine is pushing Jean away and then he's offering her to come back to 616 with him and why would he want to do that? Just so she could stand around and make Cyclops look like an idiot (when he doesn't need help with that in the first place)? It's too much of a 180 and pretty much ignores the Melita issue. But if you don't really give a shit about Wolverine's love life, there' not much else to complain about.
Uncanny X-Force has been one of the best X-books on the rack since it started and the Dark Angel Saga is already cementing itself as the arc that will solidify it in the annuls of X-books for years to come. There are still a lot of unresolved issues. The stage is definitely set for some crazy shit involving Wolverocalypse. The prospect of some Age of Apocalypse refugees finding their way to 616 is a big fucking deal as well, even if the whole timeline of this arc is still confusing as hell. Overall, at a time when there are a lot of exciting X-books unfolding, Uncanny X-Force #12 still finds a way to stand out. For that, it's awesome deserves extra praise! I give this issue a very spirited 5 out of 5. It tells a great story while putting dead characters to good use. It's an awesome combination that makes Uncanny X-Force worth it's weight in adamantium! Nuff said!