Saturday, October 1, 2011
Uncanny X-men #543 - Heavyweight Awesome
No man with even semi-regular balls will admit to crying under any circumstance. I'm a man, but I have an inherent lack of shame and modesty. Just ask every bartender that ever had the misfortune of watching me take a piss on a pool table. Or any unlucky bastard who had to hold me up while I cried endlessly about the cancellation of 24. Some things are worth shedding a tear over. If you don't, then you're not a macho man. You're a douche-bag. When a comic book series like Uncanny X-men starts off in 1963 and runs non-stop until 2011 for over 500 issues only to stop at issue 544, that's shit worth getting a little teared up. I have relatives who aren't as old as Uncanny X-men. There's little doubt that the X-books have been more chaotic than every explosion in every Michael Bay movie. There have been spin-offs, spin-offs of spin-offs, relaunches, relaunches of relaunches, and so much other shit that's impossible to keep track of even with the aid of the internet. But Uncanny X-men has always remained the same. Well that's changing soon and with Uncanny X-men #543, the last true arc of this amazing series will come to a close. Now whether I'm drunk or sober, I'm going to get choked up here so please don't think less of me. I just get a little emotional when I review books that have been so awesome for such a long time.
The last major arc of Uncanny X-men ties directly into the events of Fear Itself. For the most part, the X-men have been pretty detached from the series. The only way they got involved was because Juggernaut decided to use his new Asgardian mojo from the Serpent to pay a little visit to San Francisco and it isn't just for the fancy cheese shops on Castro Street. He's there to strike fear in both humans and mutants, hoping that they shit their pants enough to start turning on one another. For the most part, he's succeeded. Cyclops has thrown everything he possibly can at Juggernaut. The old method of knocking off his helmet and mind-fucking him into submission didn't work. The last issue showed Cyclops going over a long list of plans that amounted to jack shit. Then he got desperate enough to enlist help from Illyana Rasputin, whose as crazy as anyone who ever hung out with Charlie Sheen for too long. She led her brother and Kitty Pryde into the realm of Cytorakk in hopes of using Juggernaut's own power against him. It's a lot like asking Kim Jong Ill go a little crazier so he makes the assholes in Iran look less crazy. But when you're up against a guy like Juggernaut, you can never have too much crazy!
While this epic battle of unstoppable forces is unfolding, another side-plot developed with Emma Frost and for once it didn't involve her dressing up in a thong (tragic, I know). Both she and Hope Summers were hit with the equivalent of a roofie enema after their battle with Juggernaut. When Emma Frost woke up, she went a little crazy and had another vision of the Phoenix Force. It wouldn't be the first time either (see Second Coming #2). Since she's boning the guy that the Phoenix used to bone, her first inclination is to kill the mutant messiah. Now it's not clear if the Serpent is making her do this or Emma Frost is just that fucked up, but it was a pretty twisted scene that provided yet another annoying Jean Grey tease. Now I've made whole blog posts about how these Jean Grey teases are fucking annoying as hell. Marvel is already naming the new institute after her. I get that they're going to move mountains to keep her dead, but they shouldn't be dicks about it. And wouldn't you know it? That's the first plot Uncanny X-men #543 addresses. Way to go Marvel! Spend what few issues you have left of Uncanny doing more bullshit Jean/Phoenix/Hope teases!
Emma has clearly lost her fucking mind. Standing over Hope's bed, she looks like one of those girls you meet at a rave who had one too many ecstasy tablets. Her face is bland, her eyes are glossy, and she's looking up at all the shining lights as if she's co-starring with Jesus in a bukkake video. Again, it's not entirely clear that this is a product of the Serpent's fear inducing bullshit. Or maybe this is just her acting on the shit she saw in Second Coming #2. Either way, she comes off as one of those crazy beautiful women who lose their minds in between bouts of bulimia. It's not quite as egregious as Starfire's portrayal in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1, but it's within spitting distance.
From a woman getting too hormonal to a guy whose balls are too big for his own scrotum, Juggernaut continues his march on San Francisco. To this point every plan Cyclops has thrown at this guy has failed miserably. Being an unstoppable Juggernaut just isn't enough. Having Asgardian power is just excessive. It's like chugging a red bull after snorting a pound of meth. So finally, Cyclops shows that he has bowling ball sized testes as well and confronts Juggernaut. Whether by plan or by dumb luck, the unstoppable douche-bag gets a sudden hit from Cytorakk. Apparently, he doesn't like that Juggernaut is double dipping with his powers. So it appears that visit from Illyana had paid off. For some reason, gods of other dimensions just can't say no to teenage blond psychopaths. Can't say I blame him either.
Getting his Cytorakk power short-circuited wasn't enough though. Cytorakk also had to choose a new avatar with which to kick unstoppable amounts of ass with. It was supposed to be Illyana because let's face it, an unstoppably strong teenage girl would be a boon for feminism. Once again, those without a penis are left high and dry because Colossus is the one now wielding Juggernaut's unstoppable power. While we may never know how awesome Illyana could have been as the new Juggernaut, it's hard to deny that Colossus looks pretty damn awesome with it. He was strong enough to handle 100 tons and Kitty Pryde's bitching before. Now he has Juggernaut's power. That means the odds are finally even! The X-men can stop getting their asses handed to them and Colossus can dish out the necessary punishment that Greg Land's art makes into such a spectacle.
In addition to orgy of colors inundating the readers retinas, there's also some interesting inner musings with Colossus. He vivdly describes the feeling of becoming an unstoppable force. It's like an ordinary person suddenly tapping into the brain of Charlie Sheen and being overwhelmed by it's power and corruptive effects. Colossus, the usually gentle Commie-loving Russian, becomes a real Juggernaut with absolutely no regard about tearing shit down. In a ways he seems to understand Juggernaut now. It adds more to the ball-busting destruction that fills the page with an unstoppable power vs. godly force brawl. It's what you would imagine a bar fight between Zues and Odin would be. It's every bit as awesome as it sounds and Greg Land's writing along with Kieron Gillen's inner mologues just make it seem so damn perfect.
So the X-men finally have something to throw at Juggernaut that might actually slow him down. Yet for reasons that are completely understandable, Kitty Pryde is pissed at Cyclops. She and Illyana return from the realm of Cytorakk and she's not a happy camper. She's inclined to castrate Cyclops more than Emma Frost already has for making her boyfriend the meat puppet to a malevolent power. He could bring up that his wife ended up going through the same crap so she shouldn't be giving him shit, but I guess he's not that much of a dick...yet. He also points out that using Colossus was not part of his many plans. He took on this power so Illyana wouldn't have to. It makes him a good brother and an idiot because as Illyana states outright, pitting unstoppable power against a godly force is like putting a pyromaniac in a room with TNT. Alone they're dangerous enough. When thrown against one another, shit's going to start blowing up.
Colossus, despite being more unstoppable than Apple's user agreements, manages to drive Juggernaut 500 miles away from San Francisco, presumably before they destroy all the pot dispensaries. They end up in a dry lake bed where that explosive potential that Illyana mentioned starts to go critical. Since Cyclops can't resist watching his plans blow up, he gets Pixie to teleport him to the site. There it looks like Colossus and Juggernaut are going to beat each other to the point where time and space itself collapsed under the sheer power of their power. But like a riot in LA, it ends before shit really goes crazy. In the middle of this critical mass ball of awesome building up from their battle, Juggernaut is transported away courtesy of the Serpent.
Now it may sound like a cheap way to end a fight, but in this instance it actually does make sense and even fits this arc into the greater fabric of Fear Itself. If you read Fear Itself #6, you know what I mean. In that issue, the Seprent recalled all his hammer-wielding minions for a final assault on Asgard. Juggernaut was one of them. Well now we know the how and when. Sure the timing was a little convenient. If he had waited just a little bit longer then maybe that lake bed would create a new grand canyon that the state of Nevada could turn into yet another tourist attraction. Too bad because it looks like they'll have to stick with casinos and legal brothels. Oh well, maybe next time Nevada! Timing aside, this moment adds a great bit of continuity to Fear Itself. It's one of those finer details that makes both this arc and the Fear Itself series all the more awesome.
From an explosive situation with Juggernaut to another bombshell, we check back in with Emma as she prepares to kill the mutant messiah. Given the events of Schism, we already know that Hope survives and Emma is still Emma. So what stopped her? Was it her undying love for Cyclops or yet another instance of her abandoning her devious past? Fuck no! Not this time! This time, it's Namor. That's right, that scene where he tried to bone her in Uncanny X-men #541 wasn't for nothing this time. Despite being busy in his own Fear Itself crossover, he's able to find time to go back to Emma Frost and stop her from killing the mutant messiah. Like any woman in a murderous mindset, she doesn't make it easy for him. But as is often the case with both Emma and Namor, playing rough often turns into a juicy kiss. And this is enough to break Emma out of whatever fear driven spell she was under. That's right. Namor didn't even need to demonstrate the power of his penis as Cyclops would probably have to in order to subdue Emma. He just had to kiss her and that was it. Emma is understandably mortified, but Namor is understanding as hard as that is to fathom. He also reminds her again that Cyclops wasn't there for her. It doesn't matter what he's doing. If a woman he wants to bone is in trouble, he comes to her aid.
Now if Matt Fraction had been writing this, I suspect the scene would have gone down differently. He made it a habit of merely glossing over the Namor/Emma relationship and always using it to somehow reify his beloved Cyclops/Emma relationship. Kieron Gillen took it a bit further. He actually showed that Namor has something to offer Emma Frost besides sex and it's something that Cyclops hasn't provided. Gillen actually took this plot and made it seem meaingful and not just filler in between Cyclops/Emma bed scenes. For this I applaud Kieron Gillen. It's been a long time since the Cyclops/Emma relationship actually faced some tension. I think it's way overdue because one of the reasons Marvel writers have always justified breaking up Cyclops and Jean Grey was because they didn't face enough tension. Yet they were so unwilling to show that same tension with Cyclops/Emma that I was on the verge of shouting HYPOCRISY from the highest building. I certainly hope something more comes of this because let's face it, Namor loves his blonds and the Cyclops/Emma relationship hasn't gone anywhere for years. Please, Mr. Gillen! Pretty please!
Cyclops/Emma might not be the only relationship facing a major threat. After Colossus/Juggernaut returns to San Francisco, he gets chewed out by his girlfriend. Now at first it's hard to understand why the hell Kitty would be so upset about her boyfriend saving the city from Juggernaut. Then she rightly points out that he's willing to throw himself at something like Cytorakk for his sister despite the fact that his sister has become quite the bitch. He's so willing to throw his ass into the fire that he doesn't seem to be making an effort to come back to her. At the risk of having my ex-girlfriend's hunt me down, I'll side with Kitty. Making himself the new Juggernaut and becoming part of this naturally corruptive power is kind of a dick move for any boyfriend. Since it's already been confirmed that Kitty Pryde is joining Wolverine's team after Schism while Colossus stays with Cyclops, we know how this shit will end. Looks like Kitty will have to find another Russian stud to bone.
So that's two unstoppable forces contained. That leaves only ones which may be the most unstoppable of them all: government. In the previous issue Mayor Sadie showed that she was perfectly willing to attack Utopia if it meant preserving her city. She could have used the excuse that the Serpent's fear was effecting her, but that's a pretty lame ass excuse at this point. Cyclops isn't buying it so he has a telepath paralyze her and then he threatens her in a way nobody usually threaten's politicians without ending up in Guantanamo Bay. He basically tells her that mutant aren't going to be victims on his watch and he could kill her and make it look like an accident if she tried shit like that. Emphasize kill because this isn't Magneto who's talking. This is Cyclops. I get that he's a dick sometimes, but this is a new extreme. One that seems somewhat of a lead-in to what he does in Schism. Again, it adds a great sense of continuity for this Fear Itself tie-in. As I've said before, it's the little things that separate good comics from truly awesome comics.
As Cyclops leaves, Mayor Sadie asks him if he would have listened to the Serpent if it offered mutants safety in exchange for screwing over San Francisco. He says without hesitation that he didn't. Listening to evil voices just doesn't work with him. It didn't work with Apocalypse so why would it work with the Serpent? Now the cynical readers may interpret this as him just lying through his teeth. I don't see that. Since threatening her life made him such an asshole, he has to do something to redeem himself.
It's a powerful moment and one that shows Cyclops crossing lines that he doesn't usually cross, but he's still a long ways away from beign Magneto. That doesn't mean the anti-Cyclops crowd won't have plenty to work with in bashing him. However, he hasn't become an outright villain or anything. Does he deserve to have his balls busted by someone other than Emma Frost at this point? Absolutely. But does he deserve to be painted as the new Magneto? Fuck no. Kieron Gillen walked a fine line here and so did Jason Aaron in Schism. Cyclops is still Cyclops, but after an issue like this the man needs to be humbled. That's what Schism has promised to do in a profound way and this issue really helps reinforce why that event is necessary.
Now I'm starting to get weepy again. Or maybe it's just the booze. Cyclops being an asshole at the end ensures I can't get too emotional for this being the end of the final arc of Uncanny X-men. It seems as though the theme for Fear Itself finally permeated the X-books with this issue. Granted, it didn't happen until the end, but at least it happened. Part of the teasers for Fear Itself asked "Do you fear what you've become?" with Cyclops as part of the teaser. Well here, we get a glimpse of what he's becoming. He goes from a competent leader and role model to threatening the mayor of San Francisco and having one of his buddies become the new Juggernaut. He's definitely become the Cyclops that will eventually cross those lines we see him cross in Fear Itself. So after reading this issue and re-reading Schism so far, it feels quite seamless. It feels like a true progression of Cyclops's character and since he's been a mainstay of Uncanny for so long, it's fitting that the book ends just as he makes this transition.
This book had so much over-the-top action with just enough drama squeezed in thanks to the Namor/Emma and Kitty/Colossus scene. The completion of this arc makes it a wonderful addition to the Fear Itself library, but the only thing that keeps it from being truly awesome is how vague it is in terms of Serpent's influence. There are some hints like those with Emma Frost in how her fear nearly drives her to kill Hope Summers. But that's about it. We don't get any sense that the same fear started pushing Cyclops to being the total dick he was at the end with Mayor Sadie. If Fear Itself was supposed to show Cyclops setting himself up for what would happen in Schism, it didn't do a good enough job. Not saying it wasn't good, but it just wasn't good enough. Kieron Gillen writes Cyclops's character so well, but it's the circumstances around him that didn't seem to fall in line. It would have been nice to know just how much or how little the fear from Fear Itself was effecting others like Cyclops. It would have made the impact of Schism even more powerful. If nothing else, it made for an epic battle that tied in nicely to the events that unfolded in Fear Itself #6. So for that, it's still plenty awesome.
So there's only one issue of Uncanny X-men left and it's basically an epilogue issue. I'll probably be doing some binge drinking the night after it comes out. Even though Uncanny X-men is relaunching, it still feels like a solemn end to such a legendary series. The final arc ends with Cyclops, the once lovably uptight teenager from the First Class, turning into the dick that would eventually cause the big schism with the X-men. It's a dark way for the final arc of the series to end. But it fits in nicely with the overall tapestry of the X-books. It was only a few details shy of being perfect. Therefore, I give Uncanny X-men #543 a 4.5 out of 5. There's only one issue left people! Stock up on booze and Prozac because it's going to be a sad moment. I'll be here, presumably a little drunk to review it. Until then, this issue is a fitting example of the kind of awesome that Uncanny X-men has delivered over the past 48 years. Nuff said!