Saturday, July 23, 2011
Uncanny X-men #541 - Making Unstoppable Awesome
Bear with me, I'm still hung over from the recent announcements about Uncanny X-men going day-and-date digital release. I feel like Juggernaut and Hulk are taking tap-dancing lessons on my head at the moment so forgive me if my dick, poop, and boob jokes are a little off. This is a great time to be a fan of the X-books because between Fear Itself, Schism, Uncanny X-Force, and X-23 no fan has any excuse to not find something awesome. If so, then you're a douche-bag. I'm sorry, but that's the only way I can put it. An embarrassment of riches like this doesn't come along too often. We have no idea how long it will last until someone comes along and fucks it up so like a good bottle of whiskey, enjoy it!
Uncanny X-men recently dove head first into the pool of topless bikini models that is Fear Itself. Uncanny X-men #540 took the events that began in Fear Itself and showed how they affected the X-men in their neck of the woods. San Francisco is certainly not equipped to handle super-powered beings armed with magic hammers and anger management issues. A city of hippies, gay pride parades, and pot dispensaries needs the X-men to step up. The last issue had the city stare down a poison tipped dildo that was ready to fuck them over in all the wrong ways. That poison tipped dildo...Juggernaut. And he's packing some heat courtesy of the Serpent!
Now the last issue I reviewed really fed off the quality from Fear Itself. I commended Kieron Gillen from not giving into the obvious temptation to just turn the whole issue into some over-the-top beat-em-up between the X-men and Juggernaut. The way Fear Itself was set up, he could have gotten away with it and used the paycheck he got from the issue to buy his wife a diamond ring that would have earned him get-out-of-mowing-the-lawn duties for the rest of the year. Lesser men would have taken the easy way out. He did not. Instead, he spent Uncanny X-men #540 setting up the action and the situation. He had Juggernaut make a new friend and by that I mean he fucking mind-wiped some random kid into being his fanatical cult-follower/prison bitch. It was a solid transition that took Fear Itself right to the doorstep of Uncanny. Well now the time for building it up is over. It's time for people to start beating the shit out of each other.
Uncanny X-men #541 starts by introducing Mayor Sadie of San Francisco to a headache the X-men have endured for many years. Juggernaut is on his way to her city and he must be receiving subliminal messages from Michele Bachman because he's prepared to level their decadent city like Sodom and Gomorrah, except Juggernaut uses his bear hands and doesn't need no stinkin' divine retribution! To get a sense of what's going on, they meet up with Emma Frost. And by meet up with her, I mean she sends a telepathic conference call that has them in this psychic mind-scape that looks like the set of a porno. Emma is even dressed as a sexy cowgirl who looks like she was fired from the Dallas Cowboys cheer-leading squad for trying to bone Tony Romo, Emmitt Smith, and Roger Staughbach at once. But it's Emma freakin' Frost. This is how she roles. Accept it, jerk off to it, and be happy.
Once you're done firing off some knuckle-babies, you return to see Juggernaut arriving in San Francisco. He makes himself at home the same way drunken frat boys make themselves at home. He starts blowing shit up. All this while irrational protesters are letting the Serpent's whole wave of fear fuck them like a Bankok transvestite on meth. And remember that kid from the last issue? The one who got roped into being Juggernaut's rodeo clown for stealing a fucking candy bar? He plays the part of a preacher and the way he preaches would make even Jeremiah Wright cringe.
So after some coordination with Emma Frost and Mayor Sadie, the X-men show up on the scene to take on this guy who was unstoppable before he had a hammer forged by a pissed off Asgardian god. Cyclops plays his usual strategy role. He has Cecila Reyes and Emma Frost protect the civilians so they don't become wack-a-moles in Juggernaut's attack. Then he, Colossus, Shadowcat, Iceman, and Magneto begin their attack. It goes about as well as you would expect any attack to go against an unstoppable force. They might as well be trying to refill the oceans by spitting in them. Juggernaut really doesn't break a sweat, which when you've got a giant hammer on your side should be a given.
That hammer isn't just good for ruining perfectly good pants either. In addition to being strong and invincible, Juggernaut actually does show that the hammer has other uses. When Magneto enters the picture, he demonstrates way. Even though the hammer is made of metal, Magneto can't stop it. Some master of magnetism he is. He makes a comment that the hammer is as unstoppable as Juggernaut. It isn't just because he threw the damn thing like Nolan Ryan. It's part of his power.
This adds a slight if not miniscule touch of intrigue. We haven't really found out much about what this hammer is doing to Juggernaut. In Fear Itself, he just picked it up and that's it. He became Juggernaut 2.0, the Asgardian upgrade. He was unstoppable before. So what's this hammer doing? Is it making it so that he's unstoppable in a way that makes for more than just a good pick-up line? It's not clear, but it is an intriguing possibility that might actually get some brain cells working while you're still drooling over the pages.
So even Magneto is as useful as a Vanilla Ice Greatest Hits album against Juggernaut. This forces Cyclops to reconvene with Emma and Mayor Sadie via psychic conference. They have to figure out how to stop a guy who was already unstoppable and now has an unstoppable hammer on top of it. Sadie wants every X-man, including the kids whose powers only involve farting toxic fumes, to save her city. Cyclops and Emma remind her that throwing kids into battle is crazy even by San Francisco standards. So Cyclops orders a new strategy. This one involves someone with red hair, green eyes, and cosmic power. That's right! She's back! Jean Grey is...oh wait, it's still fucking Hope Summers. Never mind!
I'll skip another rant about rip-off characters. Cyclops's strategy is not without merit. He takes as many mutants as Utopia can offer and puts them around Hope, who is like the Wal-Mart of mutant powers minus the lawsuits. Surrounded by all these mutants, she takes on as many powers as she can at once. With those powers, tears into Juggernaut with the kind of force that James Cameron only wishes he could use in the Avatar sequel. It's flashy, it's intense, and it's pretty fucking awesome. Seeing a teenage girl kick Juggernaut's ass when the X-men and Magneto could not is just satisfying in a way you can't describe without a handful of valium and a tank of laughing gas. Not only is it flashy, it works. She gets Juggernaut's helmet off. And like so many previous battles, the next step is easy.
Except this time is different. This time, a simple psychic shot to the brain isn't enough to make Juggernaut go sleepy bye. He's channeling Asgardian level power. His mind is no longer on the same level as a burned out football player who had one too many concussions and one too many shots of steroids in his ass. So when Emma Frost, who has been manning Cerebra the whole time, launches her attack, it doesn't go as planned. Her eyes start glowing, which could mean any number of things. Maybe she saw a thong that she had yet to wear yet or Cyclops's penis finally overpowered her. But whatever it is, Emma Frost loses this mind game. It's just not clear why and it would be a lot easier if it was clear.
It doesn't get much clearer either. Remember that psychic conference room that looked like a strip club in Dallas? Well once Emma's mind gets overpowered, that crazy kid with the tattoos somehow enters. Now this guy got punched out by Cyclops ten pages ago. How the fuck he came into this psychic domain isn't even hinted at. He doesn't say much to indicate what he's up to. He just keeps droning on about how the Juggernaut can't be stopped, as if we haven't heard that for over 40 fucking years of X-men comics. Not only that, he somehow takes the form of Juggernaut and then proceed to stomp on Mayor Sadie and Cyclops. But keep in mind, they're in that psychic conference room. It doesn't kill them. It just jolts them back to reality. It's as fucked up as it sounds.
It still doesn't stop there. They're no longer in that psychic domain. They're back in the real world, looking around and seeing all the destruction Juggernaut has brought. That's really about it. Juggernaut doesn't finish them off or anything. He just keeps walking. I really don't know what more I can say about it. I want to make a poop joke, but I'm too busy scratching my head. So Juggernaut kicks their asses, resists Emma's psychic probe, and then that groupie of his cuts off the psychic conferencing? And then he just walks away? Did I miss something? Am I really that hung over?
We don't get much else in terms of hints. Emma's eyes are still glowing. That's really all she can do now. This leads me to the same rant I went on in my last review. In Uncanny X-men #540, Emma and Namor had a rather awkward encounter. By awkward I mean Namor tried to bone her and why not? She's Emma fucking Frost. But in this issue absolutely nothing comes of it...again! It's happened before. Emma and Namor have shared awkward moments, but as always nobody does shit with it. It might as well have not even happened. Now maybe it'll come up later in this arc, but a teaser or two sure would help. The same shit happened in Matt Fraction's last Uncanny arc. It looks like Emma faces something dramatic, but it's glossed over and completely forgotten about. You would think that Marvel would try to do more with their flagship vixen that all their fans fantasize about boning. But really she still comes off as a fucking barbie doll. If something is going to happen with her before the Uncanny relaunch, now is a good time. But if recent history is any indication, it's not worth getting your hopes up.
X-men vs. Juggernaut is as classic a fight you can get without pitting Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in a cage match. It's been done many times before. There are only so many ways you can tell the story about the X-men ripping off Juggernaut's fish-bowl helmet and have it be compelling. In that sense Kieron Gillen is basically having to write this story after Joe Pesci walked in and smashed his hands with a hammer. But somehow, he's able to make this classic and arguably overused element work. There's a personal element and there's the mindless violence element that those who get off on blood lust get their rock off. Gillen doesn't just focus on the X-men. Mayor Sadie and the city of San Francisco itself is very much a character in this series. This isn't just an X-men vs. Juggernaut Round 48729452985 brawl. It feels like a strong part of the Fear Itself story.
The action was solid. The personal touch was there. However, the only thing keeping this comic from being perfect was the coherence at the end. One WTF moment is enough to really kill the momentum like a jackhammer to the base of the skull. It's not that it was completely outrageous in the same way half the anime porn that comes out of Japan is outrageous. It just isn't really that clear what happens at the end. As such it's a little hard to get excited about the next issue when you don't know what the fuck happened at the end of the last issue. That's like being excited about a blowjob and not knowing if the person giving it to you is a hot chick, an ugly ass tranny, or some hobo who thinks your penis is the antenna to the aliens controlling his mind. When it comes to a story like this, a little clarity goes a long ways.
Aside from the end, the book is pretty damn solid. It builds on most of the foundations Gillen made in the previous issue. It nicely mixes in the Fear Itself elements while demonstrating some new combat strategies that make Hope Summers somewhat less a bratty Jean Grey rip-off and the badass bitch that Cable raised in a post-apocalyptic future. While the end makes it hard to gauge just where the hell this arc is going and what will come of it, there's still a solid comic here. It's not as good as the previous issue, but it's so close it can smell it's farts. I give Uncanny X-men #541 a 4 out of 5. Now if the next issue can ease up on the WTF and give San Fransisco a remodeling that every gay guy on Castro Street will go crazy trying to fix then we'll have something truly awesome with this arc. Nuff said!