Friday, July 29, 2011
X-men Schism #2 - The Cracks of Awesome Begin
Move over Sunnis and Shittes! Get a room Israelis and Palestinians! Go make a porno liberals and conservatives! The real schism is taking place in the annuls of X-men! It's the event Marvel says is to the X-books what nitro is to glycerine. Wolverine and Cyclops, the Bert and Ernie of the X-men, are about to go from begrudging allies to two people who would like to see each other impaled by a rusted metal dildo. The first issue of Schism set up the conflict that was poised to tear them apart. Now it continues in X-men Schism #2.
In the last issue, you didn't see too many signs that Wolverine and Cyclops were going to start butchering one another. Aside from Cyclops waking him up and making Wolverine sit through a boring meeting at the UN, they hated each other no more than usual. Then an old buddy of Grant Morrison came knocking named Kid Omega. He made a massive public spectacle by using his powers to get all the world leaders to admit they were douche-bags on global TV. Now I'm all for a story that makes politicians look like assholes, but it had an unpleasant side-effect if you can believe that. It caused all the nations of the world to break out their old Sentinel weapons and throw them at the X-men. This is where X-men Schism #2 picks up. The attack has begun and the X-men have to defend themselves while trying to stay united.
It starts off in Iran. In the previous issue, the Iranian leader at the UN made quite a scene when he claimed the sentinels were about as real as Iran's nuclear weapon's program. Then Kid Omega poked that twisted little mind of his and revealed that he loved to beat children because it made him as happy as a school girl in a Barbie factory. Apparently, beating your kids isn't a big deal in Iran because his people are still supporting his sadistic ass. Having made an ass of himself, he does what any crazed tyrant would do. He prepares to unleash a giant robot. Granted, this is a country where clean water is akin to Christian gay porno so the prospect that they could get the sentinels working in the same way they get their nuclear weapons working is laughable. So it's not too surprising when the sentinel goes haywire and starts killing people.
As would be expected, this new global mutant crisis prompts the X-men to cancel class for the younger segment of the team. It's not quite as fun as a snow day, but most will take anything to get out of doing homework. Wolverine even tells them in a way that's not all that reassuring either that they need to stay in their rooms and wait until the giant mutant-killing robots are sent back to Radioshack. This actually leads to a pretty compelling scene between Wolverine and Idie, who really hasn't had a chance to do dick in Generation Hope. She outright says to Wolverine that they're monster. He doesn't agree, but it doesn't bother her. It seems to stick with Wolverine as he goes to meet up with Cyclops and Emma, who are trying to govern this latest crisis. But Wolverine is definitely affected by her statement. It shows in how he's extra mean to Cyclops, which can be hard to gauge at times. But trust me! The subtext is there!
Then we leave the serious and the dramatic to take a stroll down WTF boulevard. Remember the end of the last issue? The one where a 12-year-old kid shot his father and manged to become Black King of the Hellfire Club? Well it turns out that shit wasn't a joke or some illusion that even the best prescription meds from a Mexican pharmacy couldn't match. It really happened. This Kilgore kid is actually Black King and now the Hellfire Club happens to consist of old men. Now I usually don't read too deeply into works of fiction, but when a boy is involved in an organization of old men then something very sick is going on or it's a NAMBLA conference. Whatever the case, this kid somehow has these old men wrapped around his finger. They give him four billion dollars and allow him to implement this master plan of his, which may or may not involve slaughtering any and all teachers that ever gave him homework.
A kid running the Hellfire Club is almost less believable than mutants fighting killer robots. It's actually a relief to see the X-men doing what they do best, spanning the globe and taking out all the old sentinels that every country has stock piled. It's a nice way of showing that this story involves all the X-men and not just the Cyclops/Wolverine bromance. By far one of the best moments comes when Rogue and Kitty Pryde visit Iran. Remember that child-beating leader of theirs? Well he's quite emasculated when two beautiful mutant women who have no problem showing their cleavage destroy his sentinel and save his sadistic life. If that weren't humiliating enough, Kitty makes it a point to say that she's Jewish as well.
Now I'm not usually one to make political statements that don't involve making fun of Glenn Beck, but this was by far the most satisfying scene in the issue. It made me stand up and shout "Take that, Iran! America, fuck yeah!" So thank you, Marvel! Thanks for tapping my inner patriot!
I'm sure Wolverine and Cyclops would be content to blow up every sentinel, call it a day, and have a beer together. But back on Utopia, Wolverine is in a worse mood than usual. He hates the idea of being left behind while others go out and butcher sentinels. Hell, that's his idea of a Saturday morning jog. But Cyclops insists that he and the X-men's heavy hitters stay on Utopia in case someone pulls a wild card (although I bet he's not anticipating a sinister plot by a crazy kid). Wolverine also insists they go after Kid Omega, who started this mess when he made his little political statement in the last issue. While he and Cyclops argue, Kid Omega saves them the trouble. He shows up right at their doorstep, looking more smug than Donald Trump when he's taking a stroll down Harlem.
Speaking of smug, remember that kid? Well at the risk of implying too much pederasty, he enlists other kids his age to help him out with this sinister plan of his. These other kids look like the kind of kids you would find in a Middle School whining about how their mommy and daddy won't let them wear thongs or watch Cinemax after 11 pm. But they carry themselves like Kilgore. They meet up with what look like a cross between aliens and a crazy pitbull you might see your hillbilly neighbor unleash on the mail man when he fails to deliver his monthly porno. For some reason, these kids approach it as if they're buying candy (or pot). The aliens actually sound like the rational ones because they think it's pretty fucked up they're dealing with kids. Then one of them throws a hissy fit and fucking butchers their ass. No, I'm not joking. A 12-year-old girl with a Hello Kitty pack and all turns into the fucking Punisher and slaughters these aliens just to take some creepy canister that looks like it came from Jack Kavorkian's basement. It's more WTF icing piled atop a layer that was already smothering the series.
Now I poke fun at this whole kid Hellfire deal, but there is a serious issue here. Using kids in the Hellfire Club is quite a twist, but it walks a fine line between twist and just plain fucked up. I mean I know 12-year-olds are pretty sadistic creatures. They're underdeveloped brains make them capable of so much irrational cruelty. But turning them into these Hellfire goons is pretty fucked up even by comic book standards. I'm assuming there are more details that haven't been revealed, but some hints or clues would help combat the WTF aspect. For a comic that's supposed to be part of a serious turning point, it really is fucked up.
Back in the more rational world of mutants, sentinels, and Emma Frost's boobs there are some more serious matters at hand. Quentin Quere's smug entrance is about as welcome as a cockroach. Wolverine wastes no time in roughing him up. He also suggests they bring in Captain America and the Avengers to help them. It makes perfect sense. This is a global threat and the Avengers fighting alongside the X-men would help give them some badly needed credibility. This is where Cyclops makes a decision that marks a huge turning point for him and the X-books as a whole.
He says no. Captain America even calls them and offers his assistance. Yet Cyclops actually goes so far as to hide Quentin and LIE to the guy that bangs lady liberty like no one else can. He's logic is pretty fucked up. He believes that mutants need to resolve this in order to maintain their credibility. Well after all this time of making tough decisions that seem to always pan out, he's making one so bone headed that he seems like a regular, incompetent politician. It's a huge shift because ever since the Utopia arc, Cyclops has been the man with the plan. Now he's Rear Admiral Dip-Shit, ignoring help and trying to go solo. He should have called up George W. Bush and asked him how that worked out. Maybe then he would realize just how dumb a decision he's making.
To his credit, Wolverine doesn't go blathering to Cap that Cyclops is jerking his chain and not in the way classic San Francisco way. He keeps Quentin quiet like a good, loyal compatriot ought to. But he makes it clear that he doesn't like it. He would much rather have the help of a guy who has been fighting killer robots longer than anyone. But he doesn't. It marks the first real sticking point where Wolverine starts to hate following Cyclops's orders for reasons that don't involve him sleeping with Jean Grey. Kid Omega is still really smug about it, but Cyclops makes it clear he hates his guts and if he knows what's good for him he'll be grateful that they don't publicly crucify his sorry ass.
So they have Kid Omega in custody and the sentinels everybody is throwing at them are more outdated than Gordan Gekko's cell phone. So it sounds like this is an easy crisis to resolve. Well when is it ever THAT easy for the X-men? As it just so happens, there's a museum celebrating mutant history opening that. It's presumably next to the museum documenting the history of bondage and S&M. But seeing as how Quentin hit the X-men during a very public event, it stands to reason that they'll get another nasty surprise at their next public event. So like any semi-competent leader, Cyclops has the X-men show up in force. Yeah, that's a peaceful gesture. Again, it shows signs that Cyclops is slipping and slipping worse than Mel Gibson in a cynagog.
Even if it's a questionable public gesture, it's not without merit. Because while they're entering the museum amidst so much public scrutiny, the Kilgore kid and his kid Hellfire goons are preparing to strike. Remember, they still have that creepy alien spore they bought from those poor aliens that were just looking to pick on some snotty Earth children. So they've already got a mean streak going and they're prepared to keep it going. That means we'll finally get some convergence on this WTF story with the Kilgore kid and what's going on with the X-men. I hope by the end it makes enough sense to make me stop banging my head against a piece of heavy mining equipment. I've already brained my damage enough.
The end of this issue makes it official official! The cracks have shown and some WTF has seeped through. The highlight of this issue among many is the first clear sign that Cyclops is losing his grip on power. And it's not because of an outside threat this time. It's his own incompetence. His balls have grown too heavy for his scrotum to support. He thinks his country can deal with both the sentinels and Quentin. There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance and Cyclops pretty much date raped it in this issue. It's a clear sign that Cyclops is starting to lose it. He's held onto his power and the unity of his kind for this long. Now he's poised to make a mistake that will give Wolverine one too many reasons to stab him. More than anything else, this makes the issue truly groundbreaking.
While Cyclops's inner George Bush was a the highlight, the new Hellfire Club was the lowlight. So a kid worms his way into the Hellfire Club, which is now run by old men? What is this, Ancient Greece? When did the Hellfire Club start making pederasty it's new policy? If that weren't fucked up enough, the new Black King recruits more kids who are somehow more sadistic than your typical 12-year-old. I'm not sure if Marvel is trying to send a message that kids are evil and we should stop reproducing or if there's something else that's making these kids competent enough not to piss themselves when they start making deals with alien killers. I'm willing to wait and see what comes of this truly WTF twist that Marvel is developing. It doesn't completely detract from the issue, but it is a goofy twist that makes the book somewhat hard to take seriously at times.
Until that explanation about the new kid-centric Hellfire Club comes, Schism will have a serious hole in the plot. However, this issue still succeeds in a key area. It begins the actual schism between Wolverine and Cyclops. Jason Aaron crafts that moment wonderfully, showing in a way that's perfectly in line with the characters how the animosity begins. Now it's poised to grow over the course of the next three issues. A lot can happen in that time. The potential is there and this issue succeeded in setting up so much of it. That's why I give X-men Schism #2 a 4 out of 5. It an issue that gives Cyclops and Wolverine more reasons to beat the shit out of each other and you know more are coming so it can only get bloodier! Since that seems to be the very core of this series, I deem the beginning of Schism a success! Nuff said!