Saturday, July 16, 2011

X-men #14 - Revelations of Awesome

So the X-men mythos has been moving forward at a breakneck pace lately. It's been going so fast that if Lindsey Lohan were driving it, it would have killed no fewer than 500 pedestrians and injured 1000 more. With Fear Itself, Schism, and the Dark Angel Saga unfolding in other books it's easy to overlook some of the other stories that have been unfolding in the X-books. Somewhere within this maze of awesome, Chris Yost has been telling a kick-ass story called X-men First To Last. It started with Giant Sized X-men, a book I gave high marks to for telling a story in both the present and the past that came together so nicely that Stephen Hawkings could use it in his next equation for a unified theory. Since then it's been unfolding in the adjectiveless X-men series, which by and large had been an underwhelming book after Mutants vs. Vampires sizzled. Between this and all the other awesome shit the X-books are churning out, my wallet has been pissing in my coffee for spending so much on X-men comics. But for awesome this great, drinking my own piss is a small price to pay!

X-men First To Last has been like two comics in one. It tells a story of the current X-men and the First Class X-men (the real First Class and not the shitty movie that just ripped off the name). Both eras are bound by a mysterious group of enemies calling themselves the Evolutionaries. They're like 80s rock bands that pretended to be gods, except these guys actually are gods and probably get better poon. Part of the mystery surrounding this stories is that these powerful god-like beings visited the X-men in the past when they were still growing into their skin-tight spandex. They came with the intent of killing every human in order to save every mutant. I don't get the logic either. Apparently having god-like power means you can kick logic's ass and nail it's girlfriend. But somehow, they were stopped and everybody forgot about it. That is until Cyclops was having one of his sweet Jean Grey fantasies and remembered just in time to see the Evolutionaries return.

The last issue started tying both eras together by revealing that the Evolutionaries sought out someone to speak for all mutant-kind. Charles Xavier wouldn't cooperate because he just had this thing about genocide. It didn't jive with him. After calling him a pussy, they went for Magneto. He wanted to get a message out to all mutants and to do that he needed a psychic. So what did he do? He abducted a pre-blonde, pre-Hellfire Club, pre-stuck up bitch Emma Frost when she was still a drooling brunette in an insane asylum. He planned on using her to show the Evolutionaries that he was the mack-daddy of homo superior, thus allowing them to do what he just tried and failed at doing in the first battle with the X-men. It sounds a bit lazy, but when super-powerful space gods offer a chance to do your dirty work it's pretty damn stupid not to take advantage of it. That's like the entire Swedish gymnastics team offering you a lifetime gig as personal gigalo and turning it down.

X-men #14 continues with another flashback to show just who these Evolutionaries are and where they came from. It was revealed in the last two issues that they were there when homo sapiens first manifested. Now they're showing how they got their super-cool space-god look that allows them to fuck with evolution the same way kids fuck with ants. They're armed with Celestial technology, which is like the blood of Jesus mixed with the sweat of Mohammed blended with the hair of Zeus. They aren't assholes about it either. They believe that what they're doing is actually for the betterment of mutants and they'll thank them for it. Just as an abusive father says his kids will one day thank him for how he beat the shit out of them. Okay, I take it back. They are assholes.

Whether it's two million years ago or the present, the Evolutionaries make it clear that they can pack some serious heat. At the end of the last issue, they confront Magneto. And if you've been following the story in the First Class era, you know he was more his old asshole self during that time. He actually worked with the Evolutionaries. So when they confronted him, it wasn't clear if he would fight them or embrace them. It's almost like being torn between hating Paris Hilton yet still wanting to nail her. But like everyone else whose name isn't Scott Summers, Magneto doesn't remember what happened with the Evolutionaries. So he does what comes naturally. He unleashes his trademark Magneto badassery. But against the Evolutionaries, he might as well be trying to beat them with feather duster.

When they were done with them, they went after Emma Frost (who was starting to remember her role in the First Class era) and demanded that she fork over her fuck buddy. Normally, she would be crass and crude about it in a way that still made you want to bone her. But against the Evolutionaries, even the power of sex appeal can only go so far.

It offers a nice segway into the past. Just as the Evolutionaries are threatening to undo all that fancy plastic surgery that makes Emma so bonerific, we see how Magneto and his old school Brotherhood abducted pre-surgery Emma from the insane asylum. The First Class tried to stop them, but Magneto was not about to pass up a chance to eliminate the human race with the help of space gods bearing gifts of genocide. He brought down the house on the X-men in ways my old frat parties could only dream of. It forced Jean Grey to save their asses, which is something I know some fans miss seeing. Her being the strong one and the Emma being the crazy one. At one point they try to wrestle Emma away from Magneto's dirty, possibly perverse clutches. Mastermind makes sure they leave with their prize, which leaves them as vulnerable as an anorexic supermodel who just puked up her steamed celery lunch/dinner.

Magneto does not give the X-men a chance to come after him. This is the Magneto of old. He's not inclined to be merciful to the X-men or make friends with them in an effort to nail Rogue. He's perfectly fine with sending a whole building crashing down on Charles Xavier and his X-men. It's Magneto in his most basic form and it's worth bringing up because this is a Magneto that hasn't really been shown in over a decade. Since House of M, he's been a very watered down villain. So much so that he's not much of a villain anymore. He parades around as this reformed, loyal associate for Cyclops. But lest we forget, this guy once had a hard-on for burying the X-men under rubble. I think that's a powerful image to show because some readers might not remember that shit and unlike me, it isn't because they killed so many brain cells with booze.

This leads to yet another wonderful segway back into the present. Remember how the Evolutionaries made Magneto look like one of Michael Vick's old dogs? Well he was able to channel some of that inner badass that once allowed him to lay waste to the X-men and fight back against the Evolutionaries. It keeps them intact, which is a small victory at best. But the Evolutionaries quickly turn it back around. They encourage Magneto to take charge like he did back in the day and kill Cyclops. He seemed to have no problem with it during the First Class era. Why not finish the job? Apparently, the Evolutionaries haven't been keeping up with Uncanny lately. If they had they would have known that Magneto is now Cyclops's biggest cheerleader minus the pom-poms and strained pelvic muscles.

In addition to Magneto getting the Joe Pesci treatment, we revisit Cerebro where Toad and a few curious mutants have been harassing Celeste. And it isn't just because she's in a sexy school girl's uniform. This isn't anime porn. This also began in the last issue. Toad was around for the First Class battle as well. So he's got plenty of reasons to be curious and he and his cronies make it clear that they want the truth. They want it in the Jack Nicholson style manner, minus the cocaine. Seeing as how the Evolutionaries are kicking everybody's ass, the truth would be a decent consolation prize even if it means not shitting right for the rest of their lives.

Another plot that began in the last issue, but was glossed over more than John Boehner's eyes after watching Old Yeller. The X-men's science team, namely Prodigy and Madison Jefferies, were working on something under Cyclops's order. They were trying to get some sort of machine working. They were light on specifics, but it didn't really matter because some of Toad's friends showed up to make sure it wouldn't get completed. It seems pretty damn counterproductive. I'm assuming they're aware that the Evolutionaries are kicking the X-men's ass and they want to make it worse? But again, they don't remember. Nobody besides Cyclops remembers. So while this scene may seem a little off (which is probably the only time this issue seems off), it still has a purpose. We probably won't know that purpose until the end.

We go back to the past, minus the clean segway this time. But it picks up right where the last First Class moment left off so it's not too big a deal. It was a given that they survived Magneto thrusting a giant fucking building over their heads. Otherwise the story in the present would be completely fucked. Once again, Jean Grey shows she's good for more than just dying every so often for the X-men. She protects them so they can hatch a plan. Xavier discovers that Magneto is taking the drooling, probably drugged Emma Frost back to the Xavier Institute to use Cerebro (and possibly feeling her up along the way since this is the pre-reformed Magneto). So Cyclops and Angel plan to fly out ahead so they can show that while Magneto may think he's the mack daddy of mutants, they're not his hos.

While Angel and Cyclops race towards Magneto, he arrives at the Xavier Institute with the Brotherhood and the still straight-jacketed Emma Frost. It's probably the least sexy thing Emma Frost has worn in two decades. She's also more out of it than a stoner who just watched all three Matrix movies while high. She seems to have no fucking clue that she's about to participate in mass genocide. That doesn't seem to bother Magneto. Once Emma is strapped into Cerebro, he sends a message to every mutant he can.

In this scene we also get a nice treat. With this message, Magneto reaches some familiar faces. We see Storm before she shacked up with Black Panther, Wolverine when he was still wearing the kitten-scratch mask, and Namor before he dedicated his life towards banging hot blondes. Mystique and Sinister show up as well to show that both good guys and bad guys are hearing this shit, which opens the door to another striking possibility. It wasn't just Cyclops and the Original Five who didn't remember the Evolutionaries. The whole fucking mutant race knew and somehow just plain forgot. That's like going out for a night on the town with Charlie Sheen, banging every Sports Illustrated swim-suit model, and solving the energy crisis and then just forgetting the next morning. And worst of all, there's no hangover to indicate that you had a great fucking time and there's no hooker in your bed complaining about how you kept wanting her to call you 'celestial sex god.'

This possibility is made all the more striking when the Evolutionaries seem pleased with Magneto's efforts. They sense that he did indeed reach all of mutant-kind. They were looking for someone to speak for everybody and Magneto, being the arrogant prick that he was during this time, made an over-the-top statement that was almost on par with LeBron jumping ship on Cleveland. Some aren't on board with this. Emma Frost, despite being more wacked out of her mind than David Lee Roth after visiting a Mexican pharmacy, voiced her disapproval about mass genocide. Keep in mind, this is before Sebastian Shaw sank his teeth (among other parts of his body) into her. That didn't stop Mastermind from attacking her mind and shutting her the hell up, something Emma Frost would never do again. It sends enough of a message to the Evolutionaries. They found their guy and they're ready to give humanity the same treatment that Saudi Arabia would give Elton John and Lady Gaga if they ever dared visit.

So while the word was spreading in the past, the present had Cyclops escape from hiding and confront the Evolutionaries. He knows better than the others that there's no beating the Evolutionaries. They might as well be Glenn Beck's therapist. There's just no winning with their brand of crazy. At the same time, Toad and his buddies are still harassing Celeste in ways that are actually pretty humane for a cute girl in a school girls outfit. I've seen 13-year-olds from my old middle school be more cruel to a girl dressed like that. But Toad finally gets what he's been fighting for (as impossible as that may seem given how many times he's had his ass kicked). He gets Celeste to broadcast psychically the truth they've all been seeking. Just as Magneto reached every mutant in the past, Celeste now reaches them in the present. It's parallel so beautiful you could jerk off to it. Hell, there's already a cute girl in a school girl's outfit to get you going! But beyond that, it finally lifts the mystery that's been lingering over everybody except Cyclops since the beginning of this story.

So now they remember. They know what Cyclops did and they aren't too happy about it. Even if the guy is nailing Emma Frost, they can't have too much respect for someone who keeps secrets that involve uber-powerful space gods. Among those now in the know, Magneto has the truth. He remembers that he once had a chance to end the battle against humanity and avoid all the crazy bullshit he went through since the first battle in Uncanny. Seeing as how he's fucked him over in ways that Ukrainian gymnast couldn't match, no one would blame him for wanting to finish what he started. The truth is out. Now the X-men don't just have the Evolutionaries standing against them. They have a very pissed off Magneto as well. It's as if someone ripped your arms off and then Hulk Hogan challenged you to an arm-wrestling match. You couldn't get more fucked unless you had a suitcase of hundred dollar bills in a Bankok brothel.

We're almost there, folks! Set aside your Scooby Snacks because the secrets are coming out! If I sound giddy, it's not because I'm high or mixed Red Bull with smack again. This is how I get when the comics I read craft strong, coherent stories that come together as nicely as a freshly baked batch of brownies (weed optional). X-men First to Last had to really do something in order to stand out from the other stellar stories that have been unfolding throughout the Marvel universe. It definitely succeed by taking the past and the present and uniting them in what can only be described as an orgy of awesome. This comic took the mystery of what had been building and finally brought it to the surface. Now Magneto, Emma, and everyone knows what happened with the Evolutionaries and it's something worth being pissed about. Yet there's still just enough unanswered questions to set the stage for a climax that if it were any more heightened it would be banned by the DEA for being too awesome.

The basis of this arc is awesome enough, but putting it together is a hell of a challenge. Telling two stories in the past and present and finding a way to keep them both coherent while being linked it like trying to juggle poison tipped daggers while walking a tight-rope over a lake of lava. It could very easily devolve into an incoherent clusterfuck, but Chris Yost manages to keep it together. The ability for this story to use both the First Class and the contemporary X-men in a solid, believable way is nothing to scoff at. Whatever minor criticisms there may be, they're greatly outshined by the sheer completedness of this story. And there's still one issue left! The potential for greater awesome is still there, which in and of itself should get any X-men fan's heart racing like a lap dance in Bankok.

I did mention minor criticisms. They are there. This issue was packed with action, which is to be expected at this point in the story. Not all the action seemed to fit. That scene in the lab didn't seem all that necessary, but it followed the underlying theme of the story in a way that it's really hard to notice unless you're dead set on being an asshole about it. I've given a lot of high marks to a few X-books lately. I honestly never thought with a sober mind that Marvel would be delivering this kind of quality in their X-books. My wallet may hate me, but I'm not complaining! X-men #14 gets a 5 out of 5. It's yet another layer of icing on the sweet cake that is X-men. Nuff said!


  1. You know, I tend to like these stories that tie past to present, but I'll admit I was on the fence with this one. I think Cyclops has received a lot of attention as the leader for the past few years, so having yet another "look, I made a hard decision" story for him - specially one set in a time when he was supposed to be an insecure boy - makes me less interested for this arc.
    Leaving that aside, nice review! It makes me reconsider.

    I apologize in advance, because I know I'm nitpicking here, but there's one thing I just HAVE to point out:

    "It forced Jean Grey to save their asses, which is something I know some fans miss seeing. Her being the strong one and the Emma being the crazy one."
    Is that a good thing though? When was Emma 'crazy'? And which fans are you talking about? X-men fans in general or exclusively Jean fans?
    This was the 05 era, a time when only Hank and Warren could control their powers. Jean and Bobby did it overtime, definetly not so early. Did the story show Jean saving them with relative ease or did it show how hard it was for her? Because from my point of view Jean being in complete control of her powers isn't accurate for the time the story is told.
    Also, we have the one woman who was shown as being in charge of her life from her very first appearance getting yet another retcon in her past to make her a victim... that isn't good at all.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Mark. I agree that Cyclops has taken center stage with all the tough decision-making, but Marvel seems to realize this. That's why they're doing a story called Schism. He's about to lose that authority and that's why I really don't fault this story for being like the others. It may very well be the last of it's kind.

    As for Emma being crazy, I think she was pretty nuts when she was White Queen. She did mind rape more than her share of people before going on the straight and narrow. As for fans, I was just talking in general. I wasn't referring to Jaen fans or Emma fans or Squirrel Girl fans. Just fans. And I wouldn't say Jean saved them with relative ease. I'm sure it was strenuous, but if she didn't her friends would be dead. So of course she would be able to push herself a bit harder. I don't see that as a bad thing.

    As for Emma being a victim, I agree. That is bullshit because it waters her down, but I don't see this as the most egregious retcon Marvel has done. I think it works here because it ties the present to the past. But that's just my opinion and I'm a drunk. What do I know? Thanks for the comments!


  3. I realize Schism will probably shake things up, but that'my problem with Marvel still doing this kind of story: just when things are about to change we have to see yet another ode to king Cyclops.

    Ah, so you meant crazy as in 'villain crazy'. She was still in charge of things though, which is why I asked, because I couldn't remember another time when Jean was the strong one and Emma the crazy (in a weakened way) one.

    I agree it's not the worst retcon they did to her (nothing is gonna top making a telepath who just graduated in administration having to work as a stripper out of necessity), but my problem with this is exactly the same with Cyclops on this arc: the timing. For the past 2 or so years we've had a watered down version of Emma, and not just in the retcons on her past, but in the current stories too. I don't think this is a time we need to see her weakened, it is a time we need to see her being a badass. I don't know, make Hellfire Emma kick Sebastian Shaw in the balls when he asks her to put ice on his drink or something like that would be a good start.

  4. I understand your gripe and I think it's a legitimate one. But for the most part, I think Chris Yost made it work. He didn't come off as shamelessly pondering to his inner Cyclops fan. The progression in this story came together nicely and thats's why it warranted a high score.

    I really hope that Emma Frost gets back to her roots because I too am tired of her being so watered down. I personally think it's because Marvel wants her to be 'nicer' for Cyclops. And I think that's a shitty reason. If she has to be nicer to be with him then she shouldn't be with him at all. That relationship has done more damage to her character lately than anything else. I personally hope that Schism or something else along the way breaks them up, but I highly doubt it will. Not with the way Marvel runs things.


  5. I picked the issue yesterday and I agree with you that Chris kept his inner Cyclops fan in check. It's just that he's not the only one writing Scott and these days everything seems to be about him, so even if Chris was reasonable it still left a bad taste in my mouth.

    The sad part is, i like Cyclops. But X-Men is about a team, if writers want to push any character they should at least make it in a way they don't need to take anything from any other character. Emma for the past 2+ years, or Beast acting like a teenager before leaving the team, come to mind.

    About Emma/Scott, i like them a lot (probably because of Whedon's Astonishing X-Men), but putting a relationship above the individual characters' personalities is just absurd. I don't think it's a case of making her nicer, though, I think the problem with the couple is just the same problem with the X-Men at the moment: just like X-Men, Emma/Scott has become Cylops' story.

  6. Thanks for the comment, Mark! Chris Yost has a great feel for the X-men. He's made it clear in many other mediums that he's a big fan who knows his stuff. It shows when he writes stories like this. He's also one of the few who don't really care for the Emma/Cyclops relationship, as evidenced in Wolverine and the X-men commentary. I think he doesn't shy away from the flaws in their relationship, which have been ignored since Joss Whedon left. I'm hoping at some point that Marvel either breaks them up or makes them more interesting. Even with Schism, I highly doubt that will happen.

  7. Hey, no problem!
    I think it's good when writers are indiferent to relationships, like I said putting the couple above the individuals is just absurd. Plus, since the comic industry is male-oriented, when the writers try to make a relationship work they are normally inclined to favor the guy and put the woman in a 'cheerleader' position, which simply doesn't sit well with the X-women. And it's a shame that some of the most notable of them are in that position nowadays, Emma, Storm (with her marriage to Black Panther) and even Rogue, though she's not really in a relationship with Magneto.

    I thought Schism wasn't going to shake Emma/Cyclops up too, but after SDCC I heard some rumors that Cyclops may not be in the X-Men anymore after Schism, while Emma will. It's not like they need to be on the same team to be dating, but maybe that's a start?

    I didn't read your review on issue 15, because now that i'm going to pick the remaining issues I don't want to be spoiled, but there are some things that I'd like to ask: is the book being cancelled after #15? If not, are there any clues on what's coming next and who's writing it? Thanks!

  8. Agreed! And I'm not just saying that because I'm a little drunk. I don't deny that there's an element of sexism in the comics, but I also think it goes both ways. Yeah, Emma Frost looks like a woman modeled from a Vivid porno. But Cyclops, Wolverine, and all the men look like they've been pumping steroids or modeling for Calvin Klein. As a guy whose greatest exercise is typing on a computer, I find that a little sexist. But that's another story.

    Even if Cyclops isn't with the X-men, there's no question that he'll end up wherever Emma ends up. Marvel would make a much bigger deal out of it if Emma and Cyclops were breaking up. Since they haven't, I'm left to assume until shown otherwise that Marvel will just use Cyclops's absence to lead to another juicy bed scene, which seems to be the only real depth their relationship has anymore. Go figure.

    Once you read X-men #15, I hope you enjoy my review! If you liked what I've written thus far, I think you'll like how that comic turns out! Thanks again!


  9. To be honest I don't have much of a problem with the characters' appearances. Visual art often presents the idealizations of beauty for its era, for both genders. At least for the women they aren't going with the super-thin, anorexic route. Like you, I have more of a problem with the guys' appearances, I mean, why was Scott nicknamed Slim again? But the women's appearances normally don't get in the way of characterization, while relationships often do. Just look at Storm and Emma, two independent and strong women, then they get into stable relationships and poof, cheerleaders. But i don't want it to sound like a feminist rant, I'm more of an equalist.

    I actually think Cyclops will be incapacitated by the end of Schism, which would put him in a Professor X kind of position, but that's just a feeling. And there's this teaser image with Emma in front of some other unindentified X-Men, suggesting that she will take the lead, which could improve her characterization and thus make writers stop dodging her and Scott's relationship's flaws.

    Thanks and I think I will enjoy it, any X-men read is a plus in my book!

  10. I agree that a great deal of what we see in comics is eye-candy, but it's the hot babes that get the attention because let's face it boobs are powerful! lol You can't admire men in the same way without someone callng you gay, which I don't think is fair.

    But your theory about Cyclops being incapacitated is interesting. I can't see Marvel killing him, but I can definitely see him being taken out of commission! That would really upset the balance and force others to step up. I personally think he'll end up going after Rachel, Havok, and Polaris if they don't return from space. But either way, Cyclops is about to get his ass served to him on a fucking platter. For that, I'm really looking forawrd to where Marvel takes it! Thanks again for your comments.