Thursday, July 21, 2011

X-men #15 - A Requiem of Awesome

Get yourself a box of tissues and a fresh bottle of anal lube because the end of an major arc is upon us. The end of an awesome story is always bittersweet. A part of you is crying, a part of you is ecstatic, and some other part of you is craving a victory bottle of whiskey. Or maybe that's just the alcoholic in me needing more reasons to get drunk, of which I can never have enough. But drunk or sober, X-men First To Last has been an amazing story. The premise itself seems destined to get more convoluted than the last three seasons of Lost. Telling a story in both the past and present, tying them together, and making it so they don't become more fucked up than the first half-hour of Inception seems impossible. But damn it if Chris Yost hasn't made it work, keeping the story coherent while presumably juggling chainsaws and giving quantum physics lectures at Oxford.

Now I make a big deal of this because relatively speaking, whenever a comic book tries to mix both the present and past it turns into a clusterfuck that even German porno can't match. It gets so fucking confusing at times that the ink needs to be laced with LSD just to get the neurons in your brain to make the right connections. The stories that succeed are few and far between. My main concern with this arc from the beginning was whether it could start strong and actually sustain it. Now that it's over, I can safely say I can throw those concerns away into that dark pile of used condoms and old porno that shall never see the light of day. I know I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I want to emphasize how fragile this story was. It was only one twist away from getting fucked up and this final issue was critical in more than one way.

In the previous issue, all remaining secrets and lost memories came out like Anthony Wiener's penis at a sorority house. Toad and his drinking buddies got Celeste of the Stepford Cuckoos to give everyone a telepathic wake-up call that revealed why nobody seemed to remember the Evolutionaries. It left a lot of people pissed at Cyclops, as if they didn't have enough reasons to hate the guy who was sleeping with Emma Frost. It also allowed Magneto to remember and keep in mind he's still the guy who used to have wet dreams about humanity kneeling before him like a crack addict giving hand jobs for another hit. So now that he has another chance to finish off humanity, the big question was would he take it? Would old bucket-head fall back into his old genocidal habits?

Well X-men #15 seeks to answer that question, but in order to do so it starts off in the past to show just how close Magneto got and how he fucked it up the first time. In the First Class storyline, Magneto had the full attention of the Evolutionaries. He kidnapped a pre-silicone Emma Frost to use Cerebro and contact every mutant on the planet. He was supposed to speak for all mutants to prove to the Evolutionaries that he could lead his kind after all of humanity finished shitting their brains out through their feet. He was getting pretty damn close, but that's when the X-men showed up again to take him on. Say what you will about how the X-men have changed over the past 50 years, they're still pretty consistent when it comes to their anti-genocide stance. They take out the Brotherhood and confront Magneto, essentially telling him to cut this shit out because killing all humans is a dick move no matter what era you're in.

Even Magneto's own kids understand that this kind of mass murder just ain't right. And when your own kids start fighting you, then you done know you've fucked up. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch both side with Cyclops and Angel, opposing their father and all his genocidal inclinations. Quicksilver swipes away Emma (presumably copping a feel he won't remember anyhow) and the Scarlet Witch tries to attack, only to get a faceful of rubble. This is pre-Decimation Wanda so she's not going to play as rough, especially against dear old dad. Needless to say, the Evolutionaries aren't impressed. If this guy can't get his own kids to follow his lead, how can he do the same for mutants? Long story short, he can't.

Carry it over to the present and Magneto has another chance. Now this is where it gets tricky because if Magneto does go through with it, he's basically back to being the genocidal douche-bag he was in the First Class days. If he doesn't, then he's just gone soft. It seems like a no-win situation. Well, Chris Yost doesn't just flip a coin to figure this shit out. He takes what was shown in the past and makes sure Magneto uses it in the present. Keep in mind, everybody has remembered now thanks to Celeste. He knows that by going along with the Evolutionaries, it cost him dearly. His own children turned against him. Granted, they ended up turning against him anyways, but he saw how in the end he fucked himself worse than Mel Gibson at a neo-Nazi rally. So by that logic, he fights back against the Evolutionaries.

Again, it's worth pointing out that this is a tough spot to write your way out of. Chris Yost could have really fucked up Magneto in ways that only Japanese fetish porn can exceed. But he didn't. He used the story in the past to create a viable outcome in the present. It's that kind of attention to detail that sets "meh" stories from "OMG that fucking rocks!" stories.

So in both the present and the past the Evolutionaries are at a dead end. They continue to talk about the extinction of all mankind as if it's necessary. They keep trying to convince the X-men that they're helping mutants. You would think at this point they would get a fucking hint. Guess celestial level power doesn't make cosmic powered space gods any less arrogant. By wasting all this time trying to win hearts and minds through their pro-genocide stance, the X-men in both the past and present were working on a countermeasure. In the present the X-men science team was working on a machine that Hank McCoy slapped together in a flash, presumably with duct tape and an old VCR. In the past, Beast showed why he can still kick ass even when he doesn't look like an overgrown extra from Cats. He's able to construct a device that looks like a glorified flesh-light that cuts the Evolutionaries off from their cosmic power. Like pulling a baby away from a tit, the Evolutionaries start whining.

This should come as a boner-inducing moment for many ailing Beast fans, who saw him take a hippie stance in Uncanny recently before leaving the team entirely. In First to Last, he shows why he was awesome enough to be part of the Original Five. Only a guy like him could slap together a machine to fight celestial-powered space gods the same way I slap together hot pockets wrapped in bacon.

Now weakened, the Evolutionaries aren't in a position to play the genocide card just as Tiger Woods is no longer in a position to play the married to a hot white supermodel card. They start to throw a cosmic hissy fit. Then Cyclops confronts them. He asks for a chance to prove that it isn't necessary to wipe out humanity in order to save mutants. Now this seems like an easy argument to make, but the Evolutionaries don't make it easy for them. Maybe they're just trying to save face from being wounded by a bunch of teenagers and an old man, but they do hear him out.

It's at this point we see the timelines start to come together. Cyclops is able to convince the Evolutionaries to give him a chance. However, they are super-powerful space gods so that means they're bound to make a dick move or two. They agree to disappear, but before they do they basically wipe everyone's mind. They don't do this just to fuck with them. They do it so they don't remember how effective Beast's weapon was against them and they can't spend years putting together a coherent plan to prove them wrong. That's basically like telling someone to win a race and then cutting off their legs before it starts. Some understand that this will fuck them over. So Jean Grey, yes the REAL Jean Grey and not some rip-off character or some cosmic parrot, intervenes and uses her powers to protect Cyclops's mind. This is why he remembered in the beginning of the story. Jean protected him. Not Xavier. Not Angel. Not even Beast who built the damn machine. She protected the guy she would eventually die for, marry, and die again for. It's a nice gesture that reminds the Cyclops/Emma crowd that Jean Grey could still capture Cyclops's heart and do so without extensive plastic surgery. Seeing as how Marvel is intent on keeping Jean dead and replacing her with Emma and Hope Summers, it's a nice moment and one that Jean fans should treasure because they sure as hell won't be getting something like this anytime soon. I'll quit drinking before Jean Grey ever comes back.

While the Evolutionaries willingly step down in the past, they put up a much tougher fight in the present. They won't fall for the same bullshit again. They're prepared to begin their assault on humanity and all over the world, people start getting the kind of migraines that would make them rip their skulls off. So rather than use diplomacy like old Cyclops, the new Cyclops instructs Madison Jefferies and the Science Team to throw the switch on Beast's machine, which they've been building for the past few issues. Now the machine works it's colorful magic, just as it did in the past. This time, they amp it up. So the Evolutionaries feel more than just a pin prick this time. Now it's more like a full fledged ass-infection. Those cosmic balls of their shrivel faster than David Hasselhoff's liver at Ocktoberfest.

Now as dramatic as this scene is, there is one slight oversight that's worth noting. In the last two issues, Toad and a few randomly assembled goons were harassing Celeste and the science team. After Celeste spilled the beans on what the Evolutionaries made them forget, they basically disappeared. Did they just leave Jefferies alone? What gives? We never find out and while that's not a gaping hole, it is a hole. It's not big enough to fuck over the story, but it's there and easy to overlook. We're left to assume that after Toad and his buddies found out what happened in the past, they were too busy shitting themselves to keep fucking with the science team. They realized it probably would be in their best interest to stop the Evolutionaries before they got too comfy with their pro-genocide policy.

Regardless of the logistics, the machine works. The Evolutionaries are defeated. Cyclops and the X-men don't bat an eye even as the Evolutionaries essentially tell them their fucked. They're the X-men. They hear that shit at least five times a week. Even when it comes from evolutionary space gods, they don't bat an eye. It's nice way of showing how far the X-men have come while still clinging to the shit that makes them heroes. Sure, humanity is full of assholes, but they're worth saving. That's the X-men for you, past and present.

So the battle in both the past and present is over. The last few pages are a nice epilogue that ties up the remaining loose ends. It shows how the Brotherhood are back in place, poised to be the assholes they're destined to become. Emma Frost is back in the insane asylum, still a ways off from becoming the oversexed vixen that comic fans everywhere jerk off to. And the X-men are back to their First Class roots. We get one last nice scene with Cyclops and Jean Grey. Again, this is something X-men fans should cherish because between Hope Summers and watering down Emma Frost to make her more Jean-like there's no incentive at all for Marvel to ever bring Jean Grey back. So savor these precious smudges of ink. Jean probably won't be showing up in 616 in our lifetime. My liver will kick my ass into my grave by the time someone finally has the stones to bring her back.

As for the Evolutionaries, their story isn't quite over either. They had their asses kicked in both the present and the past. So now they have even more incentive to prepare for the day when they serve up a little ass of their own and not in the massage parlor in Las Vegas sort of way. They're still intent on seeing evolution take what they deem to be the correct path. To do this, they have to go through a pesky mutant who wears a giant condom for a costume named Cyclops. Seeing as how he'll probably have only half the balls he has now after Schism, they'll be in a prime position to fuck him up. It ties up the loose ends while leaving the door open just a crack for another story down the line! You can't ask for a more complete ending if you tattooed it on on a strippers snatch!

Now that the arc is over, excuse me while I take a few shots of vodka in both celebration and mourning. While I'm still partially sober, I'll say outright that this arc was awesome. I enjoyed it from start to finish. Giant Sized X-men #1 started strong and it stayed strong all throughout the adjectiveless X-men run. That's saying a lot for a series that made a habit out of underwhelming me with arcs that used vampire gimmicks, lizard people, and Spider-Man to fane interest. No amount of gimmicks can take the place of a good, coherent story. X-men First To Last had many opportunities to become convoluted in mixing both the present and past. It avoided every one of them. For that, this arc is as special as it is awesome.

As for the issue itself, it tied up as many loose ends as anyone could ask for. It resolved the present and the past, making it so the retcons didn't effect the overall timeline of 616 while still adding an interesting twist. It offered some nice moments that showed Cyclops being the strong leader he is, which I think is somewhat appropriate given that he's set up to be humbled in a big way with the upcoming Schism arc. So he might as well shine one last time before fucking everything up. He also makes a powerful enemy in the Evolutionaries, who really set themselves apart as characters that aren't inherently evil. They genuinely believed that they were doing the right thing and are intent on completing that task while giving Cyclops the finger. The door is left open for them to enter the picture again. It was also nice to see Beast contribute to the X-men in ways that don't involve his incessant whining. That machine of his did the trick in both the present and the past. He also did it without looking like an overgrown cat. So that's always a plus.

I won't go so far to say that this issue was perfect. It did have some faults. The scene with Madison Jefferies seemed somewhat inconsistent. We didn't see what happened to Toad and his goons. Did they just stop after they learned the truth? Did Emma Frost fuck them up for messing with her student/clone daughter? This is a woman who probably goes into a PMS fueled rage when someone borrows her eye-liner without asking. It would have been nice to see how Toad would have had his day and his brain ruined. But this oversight didn't take too much away from the overall book. It still came together nicely in all the ways that mattered. It closed up all the major and most of the minor plot holes. To dock it just for one issue would be a dick move, even for a drunk.

X-men First to Last has all the classic and contemporary elements that make X-men stories great. Chris Yost proves that even while he's busy kicking ass on the Avengers cartoon, he still has enough energy to force feed awesome up overcrowded rectum of the X-books. It makes me wish that he could stay on board, but if he can only focus his awesome on one project at a time like Avengers, I'm okay with that. So while I'm sad to see this arc end, I'm proud to give X-men #15 a 5 out of 5. This story is everything an X-men fan could want. It has mystery, explosions, secrets, and Emma Frost in a straight jacket. Whether you're old school, new school, or even remedial school you'll find something to love about X-men First to Last. Nuff said!

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