Monday, August 1, 2011
X-men Legacy #252 - Awesome vs Insanity
Sometimes it's easy to forget just how awesome a series is. It's not because readers or stupid or some of them kill too many brain cells with exotic substances imported from Southeast Asia (or both). It's because there's a shit ton of competition making so much noise that it's like trying to listen to Henry Kissenger give a speech while Metallica is playing a concert in the background. The X-books have become a crowded lot in terms of awesome. It's an embarrassment of riches with such gems as Uncanny X-Force, Uncanny X-men, X-men Schism, X-23, and Wolverine. Somewhere in between this orgy of awesome is X-men Legacy, a book that was consistent before the big wigs at Marvel decided it was a good idea to have ALL their X-books follow that example. I admit even I forgot about it with the recent hoopala surrounding Uncanny X-men and Schism. But I'm a drunk. That's a good enough reason, isn't it?
Well this past week, X-men #252 came out. For the past few issues, Mike Carey has been telling the story of how Legion is pulling his crazy ass together. And in comics, that's usually safe to take literally without it being a stupid joke. After Age of X, Legion's mind went off in more directions than Charlie Sheen in a Bankok pharmacy. Those personalities are about as friendly as hobo in crack withdraw. One of them thought it would be find to replay the old Body Snatchers routine, forcing Rogue, Gambit, Magneto, and Frenzy to help his sorry ass out. They've succeeded in getting a few personalities back in line while making a little girl cry in the process. This issue picks up in Paris, a land every girlfriend you ever had bitches about when you don't take her there and where unshaven armpits are considered sexy. What I'm trying to say before I get to the review is fuck Paris. Just thought I'd get that out of my system.
The personality they're after this time is Styx. Now it's hard to find a guy very threatening when he's named after some pussy rock band from the 70s, but he's been pulling the strings with the other personalities so I guess he's kind of dangerous. While the team cruises Paris in search for a disembodied psychopath (of which I'm sure Europe has plenty), one of Styx's buddies shows up to confront Rogue. Now he looks psychotic enough, like a young Patrick Stuart on steroids. But how he fucks with Rogue is what really sets the tone. He's a living voodoo doll. That means that all has to do is fuck himself up and he fucks Rogue up. So to kick her ass, he must kick his own ass. I think that was a Buddhist saying, but unlike Christian faith healers this shit works.
Not content with just making Rogue hit herself like an obnoxious older sister with PMS, he shows some balls and blows his sorry ass up in a way that Iranian school teachers would give a B-. I say a B- because while it does leave a smoldering mark on the streets of Paris, it only somewhat wounds Rogue. Since a blast in Paris is hard to ignore when there isn't an anti-immigration riot going on, the others come to her aid. Seeing as how Magneto wants to bone her and Gambit wants to keep boning her despite Magneto, they're pretty pissed and they're losing their patience with Legion. Remember, in the last issue it was revealed that if Legion was somehow killed, all his personalities would be killed as well. It's a last ditch solution that if push comes to shove, guys like Magneto would not hesitate to utilize. When the girl he wants to see naked gets hurt, Magneto starts getting all sorts of crazy ideas.
The team calls off their search so they can get Rogue to one of those dreary government run French hospitals that Fox News loves to demean. She still survives so I guess Glenn Beck can suck it, but that's besides the point. While they're lamenting over Rogue, Legion tells them what they're up against. Apparently, Styx is the kind of asshole Rogue could have been if nature was more of a bitch. He doesn't just absorb people in that pussy ass life-threatening way that Rogue is so good at. He actually absorbs everything about a person, takes control of them, and relegates them to a glorified meat puppet. So he's basically Rupert Murdoch minus the lawyers.
Now there is what looks to be a nice conversation with Magneto and Frenzy, but it's basically just telling readers what they already know. Magneto tried the whole crimes against humanity bit. He outgrew it. Sort of like how kids outgrew Pokemon. Same with Frenzy. Now usually this is where Mike Carey shines because he's so good at digging into the psyche of a characters. He's Dr. Phil with comics and without shitty talk-shows. But this was one case where it came off flat. The conversation Rogue had with Legion is somewhat better, but it mainly acts as a reminder that they're up against a fucked up enemy and that's about it.
Now that Rogue is officially out of the fight and not distracting Styx with her exposed cleavage, the team decides to go after Styx short-handed. Having exhausted all the smart ideas, they decide to do something that's a bit more foolish if not bat-shit. Legion had been keeping Styx from finding them by using Time-Sink's powers to create a barrier (see X-men Legacy #251). Well rather than search for him and be patient about it, they decide to let the barrier down so Styx can find them. It's about as stupid as it sounds, but without Rogue present there's no one to say it's a shitty idea. The result is as you would expect. As soon as they're exposed, Styx takes a page right out of Exodus and throws a plague of bugs at them. Again, it reinforces what a shitty idea it was. But let's face it, even superheroes make dumb moves.
Stupid or not, ingesting a few flies and subjecting themselves to malaria did get them back on the right trail. They followed the flies like a fucked up version of the yellow brick road to the basement of a church where they hope to find Styx urinating on a cross or whatever disembodied death-obsessed psychopaths do. When they arrive, they find that Styx read Dante's Inferno a bit too closely. Under the church, he's basically turned it into the nine circles of Hell. They meet up with all these people whaling in pain because why wouldn't they? They're in Hell and by Hell I don't mean stuck on the 405 at rush-hour. It's this instance where being a sociopath helps because Magneto ignores them, staying focused on Legion's renegade brain farts.
Not content to just put the X-men in a nightmare, Styx shows them what he hopes is either an ominous vision of the future or a warning to potential anorexics. He basically shows them their own dead bodies, but again this really doesn't have much impact. This is Magneto, Frenzy, Legion, and Gambit. They've all been sociopaths at one point in their lives. They have about as much compassion as Bernie Madoff when he's stoned. It doesn't bother them. What makes a much greater impression is an army of what look like Christmas Carolers after they watched Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. Being in Hell, they already know that Jesus can't really do shit for them now. Not just because they're in Hell, but because they also have bombs strapped to their chest like that Patrick Stewart wannabe from earlier. So yeah, Hell CAN actually get worse.
At this point, Legion's frustration boils over because Styx is basically holding on the cards. He says that only Legion may come to confront Styx and if they don't, all those innocent people with bombs strapped to their chests will go the way of eight-track tapes and Apple's Mobile Me. Frenzy and Magneto sure don't agree. Remember, they're former sociopaths so they're not going to worry as much about innocent lives as they should. So when Legion defies them by punching out Magneto, it makes a hell of a statement. It says that a schizophrenic is more compassionate than Magneto. People can say whatever they want about Magneto being with the X-men, but the son-of-a-bitch is still Magneto. So it's a very appropriate scene.
Frenzy and Gambit sure don't like it, but Legion decked Magneto. It sends the message that if they're not going to stop them and if they try they'll start french kissing dirt and since they're in France that means a lot more. So Legion goes forward to confront Styx. He finds out that Styx doesn't just want to wave his dick in Legion's face at how he's fucking up Paris (who wouldn't?), but he shows that he actually has Charles Xavier by his side. He took him over and now he might as well be a hood ornament. So Legion is left with a choice. Either he lets Styx take him over or he makes dear old dad a bloody stain for the French police to mop up with a sponge. It puts Legion in a hell of a position and one that seems to have been building for quite some time.
Now it's worth remembering that before this arc, Legion was a very different character. In Age of X he actually got to be a hero of sorts. The whole premise of NOT fucking people over with his psychosis is still new to him. So when one of his own personalities is trying to fuck with him, he's in a hell of a position. It's a great moment for Legion because it means he has to decide between his sanity and his father. Well, however fucked up his brain is, he chooses his father. He lets Styx take him over. It's still stupid as hell, but it's the right thing to do. He's been such a pain for a son. It seems fitting.
As soon as this happens, the fucked up mind of a schizophrenic goes from fucked to bat-shit. Now Styx has Legion and all the crazy personalities with all his crazy powers. He wastes no time in putting them to crazy use. Just as Magneto is waking up from being decked, the new Legion/Styx partnership has brought a new guest to Hell. It's part sentinel and part Juggernaut and part failed float at Carnival in Brazil. So now that means Frenzy, Magneto, and Gambit have to fight their way out of both Hell and Legion's madness. It's a hell of a way to fuck up their day, but it caps off a solid issue that brings Legion's battle with his insanity to a climax that Jenna Jameson herself would admire.
If there is any problem with this issue, it's that it didn't go far enough. There were no real personal moments like there were in the previous issues. There was no moment with Frenzy reflecting on her new role with the X-men. There was no real emotion to the moment Rogue got hurt. Part of what makes Mike Carey's books so great is that he usually takes time to flesh out the characters even as some over-the-top plot involving disembodied personalities is unfolding. He really didn't do that here. He focused entirely on Legion and his determination to find Styx. The action was solid, but somewhat bland. It really did pick up in the end, but without those character moments that make these books so amazing it's just hard to come away from this issue feeling like you've been wowed. It's like getting only a half-decent blow-job that ends too quickly. You're still interested in more, but not as excited.
Now I'm still wearing a cheerleader outfit and shaking pom-poms for X-men Legacy (don't worry, it's not the craziest thing I wear when I'm drunk). I love this series and this arc with Legion is as solid as any, but this particular issue fails to match the same themes that the other previous issues were so successful in developing. It doesn't drag down the whole arc. However, when you put it in the scope of the other arcs that are currently unfolding in the X-books, it just doesn't measure up. So for X-men Legacy #252, I give it a 3.5 out of 5. It had the potential to get a perfect score, but it just didn't go far enough and it just doesn't stand out amidst all the competition. There is still a great chance for this book to be as awesome as any other. The end of this arc with Legion may tie it together in a way that would make me want to have this story mixed with my ashes when liver disease finally does me in. Only time will tell. The problem is that when so many great X-men books are coming out, my attention span is the size of a-you know what? I'm going to go read Uncanny X-Force again. Nuff said!