Sunday, August 21, 2011

Uncanny X-men #542 - Mystical Awesome

I'm starting to feel like Marty McFly from Back to the Future and not because I have unresolved Oedipal issues. My whole sense of time is fucked up because I just reviewed two issues back-to-back that covered the same event. Now I'm reviewing an issue that took place before it. How do we know that? Well the other event is called Schism and in Uncanny X-men, the X-man haven't schised yet (I'm copyrighting that word right now). So unless the guys at Marvel are taking more drugs than I am, logic dictates that the timeline places Uncanny X-men #542 before this moment. Now Marvel is more coy about timelines than a transvestite prostitute on acid. So I'm not expecting any confirmation. I'm just expecting this issue to carry on the same awesome that Fear Itself has set up in other books.

Like every other series in Marvel, Fear Itself has struck the X-books with the force of a vibranium tipped dildo charged with the energy of a neutron star. The Serpent has taken a page out of Wal Mart's playbook and given away magic hammers at discounted prices. Unlike Wal Mart, he's a bit nicer to the lady folk. One of those hammers ended up in the hands of Juggernaut. He was unstoppable before, but now he's armed with Asgardian mojo. So what's the first thing he does with it? Simple. He takes a stroll to San Francisco to beat the living shit out of the X-men. In Uncanny X-men #541 we saw the classic approach. The team banded together, removed Juggernaut's helmet, and tried to give him a psychic migraine the likes of Michele Bachmann can only bitch about when she's not bashing gays. Well guess what? That shit doesn't work anymore! At the end of the last issue, the X-men found out that the old ways just don't work anymore. Juggernaut no longer has a weakness. Hitting his mind won't work. Hitting his body won't work. They might as well be bringing pillows stuffed with goose feathers to fight the fucking Death Star. The team lost their top psychic in Emma Frost and their mutant messiah, Hope Summers, was knocked out. In essence, they're fucked.

Uncanny X-men #542 continues that battle and by continues the battle I mean it keeps showing just how fucked the X-men truly are. It's gotten so bad that Cyclops is reaching out to guys who used to try and kill him on a regular basis, one of them being Avalanche. He was able to convince him that his former role in the Brotherhood was rendered moot when an Asgardian powered Juggernaut was coming their way. So Avalanche, likely in exchange for naked pictures of Emma Frost, agrees to help. He uses his powers to open a chasm so deep you could partially fit Glenn Beck's insanity inside it. Well deep or not, that proves to be about as effective as pissing in the ocean to stop a tsunami. Juggernaut just walks right over. And no, I don't mean that as a cute metaphor. He literally walks right over it in a way that puts Jesus Christ to shame.

So that idea is shot to shit. Now Cyclops has to regroup with Mayor Sadie back in San Francisco and like all politicians, she's getting impatient. Juggernaut and the Serpent are stoking all sorts of mutant-hating fears and they want the X-men to do something about it, but they don't want to have to pay for it. They're not unlike the Tea Party, wanting to do more by cutting out important shit like supporting your neighborhood heroes. Cyclops has to deliver in ways that Michele Bachmann can pretend to champion in interviews. He notes that Juggernaut already put Emma Frost and Hope in a hospital bed. So that's two mutant powerhouses and a two awesome sets of tits taken out of the equation. They're dealing with magic here and that means they need to rethink their approach. And when an Asgardian powered Juggernaut is coming their way, all options are on the table.

Then we get a little detour. Remember those angry mobs that were so pumped full of fear? Well they aren't the only ones. While Emma Frost is lying in a hospital bed, requiring massive amount of sedatives to counteract her roofie immunity, she has a nasty vision or hallucination (or both). What does it entail? Her greatest fear, of course! It's Fear Itself. What's her greatest fear? It has red hair, green eyes, a fiery temper, and Marvel won't stop teasing the fuck out of it! That's right. It happened again. Marvel dropped another bullshit hint about Hope, Jean Grey, and the Phoenix. They weren't even trying to be coy about it this time. In the vision, the Phoenix basically says that Cyclops will never love her like he loved Jean and that Jean always comes back. Not only that, she may already be back in the form of Hope Summers. Yeah, that's what it implies! This after Marvel outright stated that Hope is NOT Jean Grey. There's teases, there's hints, and then there's just being a dick.

Now this scene did piss me off because as I've ranted before, I'm annoyed as hell by these incessant Jean Grey teases. It's been happening since she died nearly a decade ago. Marvel went to great lengths to connect Hope Summers and the Phoenix Force, but they've gone to equally great lengths to downplay the similarities to Jean Grey. They'll state outright that they're not connected, but they'll still drop these hints that Jean Grey and Hope Summers are linked? Maybe I'm just jaded, but given how elaborate Marvel has been with this shit I just can't take it seriously. I can already assume what's going to happen. Somehow it's all going to be a figment of Emma's imagination. She'll pull back, come off as the victim, and have makeup sex with Cyclops. I would LOVE to be wrong, but until I see otherwise that's what I'm assuming. Yes, it is annoying as shit. But like my entire freshman year of high school, I will try to shut it out and enjoy this comic.

There's certainly a lot to enjoy. The scale of this struggle against Juggernuat just keeps getting bigger. If the battle in the last issue with Hope and Juggernaut wasn't flashy enough, Cyclops and the X-men are breaking out every possible trick. Cyclops starts going over all the ways they're trying to stop Juggernuat, from flying him away to teleporting him to the surface of the sun. Nothing is off the table. The old knock-the-helmet-off routine just isn't working anymore. It's 2011. Juggernaut is better equipped. So Pixie's teleportation powers along with Chamber's and Rogue's don't do shit. They're getting desperate and need to go to extremes.

Enter Illyana Rasputin. Remember her? The crazy young blond that was in a straight jacket in the last issue? No, it wasn't part of a porno. She kind of when ape shit in a New Mutants story and Colossus was having a hard time dealing with it. Well now in this desperate moment, Cyclops decided to release Magik and enlist her mystical talents. Whether she's crazy or just plain bored, she decides to help. That involves transporting her, Colossus, and Kitty to the Crimson Cosmos, home of Cytorak. This is the cozy little universe where Juggernaut drew his power. It stands to reason that the only way to stop the unstoppable is to draw upon another unstoppable power. That unstoppable enough for you?

If that wasn't scary enough, Emma Frost woke up in her hospital bed. Remember those voices in her head telling her to snuff out the cute redhead that Cyclops may try to bone at any minute? Well unlike a competent crazy bitch, she refuses to take her meds and actually listens. Word of advice all you pretty ladies, if a voice is telling you to suffocate someone with a pillow that's usually a sign you've had too much to drink or someone slipped you something when you were off taking a piss. I could go on yet another rant about how Emma Frost's disdain of redheads and her jealousy of Jean Grey is a tired old plot that Marvel never does anything with, but I already ranted enough earlier. So I'll just say Emma will still find a way to come out golden after this. She always does and always will provided the men at Marvel keep fantasizing about boning her.

From one crazy blond to another, Illyana has a little heart to heart with Cyttorak. She channels her inner Johnny Cochran and makes a compelling case. Juggernaut, Cyttorak's avatar, has found a new source of power. It's strong, it's badass, and it doesn't leave him vulnerable to psychics. That means he's essentially given the finger to Cyttorak and since he's not the kind of creature to forgive and forget, she requests that he pick a new avatar to kick his ass with. Cyttorak is more easily swayed than the jury at Casey Anthony's trial. He presents to Illyana a ruby that will grant her the power to bitch slap Juggernaut. However, Colossus has a problem with this. A big fucking problem. His sister is already fucked up enough. Giving her a taste of Juggernaut is one too many doses of crazy. But she reminds him they're kind of fucked and they don't have a choice.

This is painfully apparent back in San Francisco. Again, Cyclops is going over all the ways in which the X-men are trying to stop Juggernaut. All of them are failing, yet you can't fault them for not being creative. They use characters like Dazzler and Siryn, who only make occasional cameos in Uncanny. You have Gambit and Rockslide working together and by that I mean Gambit charges Rockslide up so that he can fucking blow Juggernaut to hell, but he barely tickles the guy. Even Magneto (yes THAT Magneto) attempts to show his ego-driven power by throwing a fucking aircraft carrier at Juggernaut. That's not a metaphor either. He really does throw an aircraft carrier at Juggernaut. And guess what? It still doesn't work.

Now at this point, you would think the X-men would start getting fatalistic. They're getting their asses kicked. But set that shit aside for a moment. By using so many diverse characters and so many (albeit failed) tactics, it adds to the overall scale of this issue. This isn't just focusing on a few characters like Cyclops, Wolverine, or Emma Frost's tits. The whole X-men are involved. Seeing as how this is in a series that's nearing it's end, that's oddly fitting. The whole team is throwing everything they have at an enemy that has been around since the very early days of the X-men. You couldn't make for a better stage if you forged it out of planks of solid gold wrapped in bacon.

This kind of scale has a way of scaring the shit out of the non-powered people in the Marvel universe. They see this happening and they get scared, just as the Serpent probably wants. And as anyone who has ever made an impulsive decision while tripped out on crystal meth knows, you don't make smart decisions when you're scared. That's what prompts Mayor Sadie to go behind the back of her mutant allies and enlist the help of the US military. Because who could be more trustworthy than the US military? Their motto being invade now and justify it later. Juggernaut is here for the mutants. The way Mayor Sadie sees it, if she has to sacrifice the mutants to save her people then that's just fine and dandy. Don't know if she's scared or just stupid, but it's still a dick move. If that weren't bad enough, Cyclops finds out about this. He knows now the politicians are against him in addition to Juggernaut. That's a double dose of impossible odds and even for a guy like Cyclops, that's too damn much.

At this point, Cyclops needs a miracle. Or the next best thing, which is magic. Back in the realm of the Crimson Cosmos, Illyana is poised to become Cyttorak's new avatar. Now Colossus could be the understanding brother and let his crazy sister merge with this corruptible power, but that would just make him an asshole. So being the stone-cold Russian with a heart of gold, he pretty much shoves Illyana aside and goes for the power himself. Illyana doesn't seem too upset with this. If anything, she seemed to expect it. Only Kitty is visibly upset and why shouldn't she be? Her boyfriend is about to merge with an evil power and she tries to remind him that no amount of makeup sex will compensate for this, but when an Asgardian powered Juggernuat is on the loose that sweet Kitty poon has to take a back seat. In the end we're left with a new and improved Colossus armed with Juggernaut's power. He's Colossouant! Or Juggernossus! Or whatever the fuck you want to call it, it still looks badass and sets the stage for a kick-ass fight in the next issue!

All in all, we've got magic, we've got armies, and we've got distressed psychic women with big boobs trying to kill annoying replacement characters. Seriously, if you didn't find something to love in this comic then you're either comatose or dead. Kieron Gillen has been walking that fine line between above average and supremely awesome for a while. I get the sense that he has the capability of taking that extra step that previous writers haven't been able to take, but it's taken him a while to go the distance. Well with this issue he did! This is as good an issue of Uncanny X-men that you'll ever find. The scope, scale, and story all mesh perfectly with the backdrop of Fear Itself. For this, I bow to it's awesome.

Now that's not to say I can overlook the scene with Emma, Hope, and the Phoenix Force. Anyone who has read my drunken ravings on this blog know that I go into seizures whenever I see Marvel teasing Jean Grey in 616. I get it. You like fucking with certain fans! Memo received! This isn't fucking Office Space and I don't need a reminder from eight fucking sources that Jean Grey is dead and her imagery gets a reaction. It's already been confirmed by Nick Lowe that Hope isn't Jean Grey. It's a foregone conclusion that Emma is either hallucinating, drugged, or the Serpent is just fucking with her greatest fears (ie Jean Grey). We know Emma Frost won't snuff Hope Summers and not just because she's alive and well in Schism. Marvel just won't make Emma Frost do anything that makes her any less their golden girl just as they won't do anything to ever bring Jean Grey back. that's just how they role and they're still assholes because of it.

But assholery aside, this was still an awesome issue. Kieron Gillen found a creative way to get the entire X-men involved. We see just how desperate the team is and Gillen actually shows the reader rather than just tells it. We see all these failed tactics from characters like Mercury and Adam X that really haven't shown up much in other books. It's a great way to show the whole X-men struggling in this battle. Then he takes the plot with Kitty, Colossus, and Magik to a new level. We get a new mystical twist that pits magic against magic against mutant. In the end, that leaves us with a Colossus/Juggernaut. It sets the stage for the equivalent of an arm wrestling match between Yahweh and Allah. It's so epic that every holy book ever written couldn't do it justice. Since this is nearing the end of Uncanny X-men, I couldn't think of a better way to end it!

I could let my annoyance with the Emma/Phoenix/Hope issue completely skew my scoring of this issue. But that would be a dick move. As much as that scene annoyed me, this issue was just too awesome to let something petty like that bring it down. This issue was as uncanny as the title indicates. For that, I cannot justify giving this issue anything less than a 5 out of 5. It's awesome. It's epic. It's over-the-top. It's the perfect cherry on top of the cake already set up by X-men Schism #3 and Generation Hope #10. It's been a great week for X-men fans. It's the kind of week you look back on and your balls get wet. Really, it's that awesome! Nuff said!


  1. I thought the combo of powers was really well done. Syrin & Dazzler, Gambit and Rockslide. It's cross-team shit like that which makes you wonder "why don't they do this in crossovers!" The Hope/Emma thing is a dick move on Marvel's part. They're teasing Jean fans by saying Hope is Jean, but really it's the "fear itself" playing on Emma's fears. Which makes me wonder if Marvel considers Emma Frost to be an incarnation of their fans? Think about everything they put Emma through and then consider how they do the same thing to their fans (at least with the Xmen). Between this,schism and Uncanny Xforce I'm actually enjoying the books. They're fresh for once. I kinda took this storyline to be filler and attached to a larger marvel wide storyline, but it's actually taking the Xmen in a new direction. Hopefully it stays there.

  2. I think THIS is probably the mysterious menace that was hinted about but never named in Prelude to Schism. It certainly isn't Quentin Quire. He appeared with a bang and couldn't even manage a whimper to go out with.

    And finally they show Cyclops as a tactical genius rather than telling us he is. Loads of contingency plans for something this big, even if they are all failing. They all sound plausible, and the presentation makes me think many of them could have worked on a non-amped Juggernaught.


  3. I think there's being a dick and there's just pushing something that's been overtly teased to death. This is both, magnified by a factor of 100. Marvel has already come out and said that Hope isn't Jean. Yet they're still doing stories teasing it? That's like teasing a surprise ending to a movie that came out over two years ago after everyone has seen it. It's not just a dick move. It's stupid.

    And even if Cyclops made a tactically sound decision, putting Idie in that position is just wrong on a number of levels. I think it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. It's a decision I don't think Charles Xavier would have made. It's a decision a war general would make and the X-men aren't supposed to be waging a war. They're supposed to be maintaining peace and that's the schism. War vs. peace. And so far, I think it's been done very well!

    Thanks for the comments guys! Keep them coming!


  4. I think Lowe's statement is still up for getting invalidated by a future retcon, kind of like Wolverine's bone claws. I'll be disappointed if it's still true at the end of next year's supposed big Hope revelation. But if Emma is proven right about Hope then I'll gladly join the Emma fanclub.

  5. I too hope Lowe's statement is invalidated, but I sort of doubt it. When it comes to Jean Grey, Marvel tends to err on the side of fucking with people.