Thursday, October 6, 2011

X-men #17 - Welcome to the Jungle

I know I fell behind in reviewing the adjectiveless X-men series. That or I started them, blacked out, got drunk again, deleted them, blacked out again, and now have to do them all over. If that's the case, I'll be sure lock my blog accounts when I know I'm going to be drunk in the future. That or I'll just install a breathalyzer on my laptop, whichever comes first. But aside from drinking, there are other reasons I haven't kept up. Between DC's new 52, the ongoing events of Schism in the other X-books, and taking time to kill half my brain cells writing reviews for Ultimate comics there just aren't enough hours in the day! Blame God for resting on the seventh day. He should have made a day specifically for making comics. That or one specifically for watching football, but that's besides the point.

The adjectiveless X-men series has been as basic as it's name lately and that hasn't helped thing. The current arc that has the X-men teaming up with the FF takes place before Schism. This is clear because Cyclops and Wolverine aren't beating the shit out of each other. Instead, they've joined up with the FF to follow a distress signal in the Bermuda Triangle that was sent by one of Cyclops's old girlfriends, Lee Forester. Aside from pissing Emma Frost off more than an ill-fitting tampon, it led both the X-men and the FF to a world that's part Avatar and part Jurassic Park. It's like the Savage Land fucked Pandora. They didn't find lee, but they did find Skull the Slayer. Don't get too excited. He's not nearly as exciting as his name sounds, but he does help the X-men and the FF get their search going. That's where X-men #17 picks up.

Like Scooby Doo in a haunted house, the team splits up and wouldn't you know it? Cyclops ends up on the team with the hot blondes. Seriously, how the fuck does a guy get to be on the same team as Emma Frost and Sue Richards? He's only giving Wolverine even more reasons to hate him. It isn't enough that he got to fuck Jean Grey. Now he gets to be on a team with hot blondes. If that weren't enough, he flexes his bowling-ball sized testes by clearing the way when they encounter some of the local wild-life. They're basically blue and purple sabretooth tigers. Now normally you need a shit ton of acid to see stuff like this. So I guess this settles the age old dispute of who has the better weed? Marvel or DC? Take that new 52!

Cyclops leads the two hot ladies through the jungle and Emma Frost makes one of her overly vain quips about how the environment isn't good for her hair. Then again, nobody forces her to dress like Paris Hilton on mission. I can't imagine Cyclops's giant condom suit is any more comfortable, but superhero costumes have never been known for being pragmatic. In this instance they don't have to be because they don't end up spending much time in the jungle. After a few more round of animal abuse, they find out that this world somehow found time to have a quickie with Halo as well. So it's Jurassic Park meets Pandora meets Halo. It's a world spawned from a pop-culture three-way! If it was a porno, it would be banned for being too awesome.

So Cyclops and his hot blondes get to shack up in a more civilized part of this world while Wolverine, Pixie, and Thing are left to hang out with Skull the Slayer. Remember his sorry ass? Nope? Well he and Lee Forester ended up in this place as a result of their own stupidity. They were trying to navigate this dimensional clusterfuck in search of new areas to drill oil. That's right, this sinister plot involves oil and greed. Hippie fanboys can rejoice and take an extra bong hit! But Skull and Lee weren't complete assholes. Even though their ship was totaled (Bermuda Triangle, remember?), they managed to create that odd-looking boey that started this whole mess. So at least the X-men now know how they got caught up with this shit. And the reader gets a sense of connection within this arc, which is something past X-men comics under Gischler have lacked.

Back with Cyclops and his hot blonds, they venture into the futuristic Halo ripoff where they go right to the front door of whatever building looks like the palace. It's a big ass place so I assume that by some miracle there's an app to find palaces in mysterious inter-dimensional cities in the Apple app store. Yet they still won't allow porn? WTF? Once they show up, they're greeted by another ordinary looking guy and a bunch of Skrull/Swamp Thing ripoffs. The guy reveals them to be the Scorpius, which sounds nowhere near as badass as it should be. But they've got big ass guns so that helps. And that's not a boob joke.

As for the man, his name is George Stanislaus. He's another filthy rich fuck so you know he's bound to be evil. He's the guy that commissioned Skull the Slayer and Lee Forester to sail into this dimensional hell hole and get stranded. Again, this shit is all for oil. He claims to not know what happened to Lee or Skull, but he's rich so he has enough money to not give a damn. He says he'll offer help to find Lee or what's left for her, but he does it in the most douchy way possible. So you know this just won't end well.

So George leads Cyclops, Emma, and Sue to the king of this fancy domain. He looks bout as trustworthy as a grizzly bear watching someone butt-fuck one of her cubs. There's no subtlety to this guy. Cyclops just politely asks for help finding Lee and he does exactly what you would expect an asshole ruler to do. He sicks his hungry pets on them and has them imprisoned. Now this would sound more awesome if it wasn't so predictable. The way this guy is drawn and the way this guy talks pretty much leads any rationally minded person to assume he's an asshole. Not that there's anything wrong with a plot like that. It's just way too fucking predictable.

Now you would expect veteran fighters like Cyclops, Emma, and Sue to put up more of a fight. But again, it ends rather predictably. This asshole tyrant who seemed to take one too many cues from Dr. Doom was able to effectively subdue them without much effort. It had the potential to be a much better battle, but it wasn't. It's just glossed over and it seems like just an excuse to knock Emma Frost out so readers can look down her dress and jerk off to her cleavage. Not that I would scorn anyone who does, but again it's predictable.

Taking a brief detour from this low-level action, we revisit Reed Richards and Dr. Nemesis as they try to repair the submarine. You would think Reed would be more concerned that his wife just got imprisoned by a psychotic king, but given their experiences with Doom he's probably used to that shit. Again, there's nothing novel here. Just some techno-babble that would make Stephen Hawking's head explode. It boils down to them not having enough power to reopen the dimensional gateway. That's it. There's nothing fancy about it for Star Trek fans to digest. It's all just a lack of power. It's as exciting as it sounds.

You know what's more exciting? Aside from pretty much anything else? Watching Thing, Wolverine, and Pixie beat the shit out of flying purple dinosaurs! Skull the Slayer is leading them on a trip to visit the Kaddek, a group that Lee decided to visit before she disappeared. It seems like a good place to start, but that's before the flying purple dinosaurs attack. Now I had to wait for the LSD to wear off to make sure this wasn't just another bad trip. I'm glad it wasn't because it's a nice scene, one that shows Wolverine, Pixie, and Thing kicking some very deserving ass. But again, it's somewhat glossed over. It feels rushed and given the useless scene that came before it, that's inexcusable.

After pissing off PETA by roughing up a few more dinosaur birds, the team makes their way to the Kaddek. They're every bit as friendly as Oakland Raider fans. There isn't much initial explanation for why they're so hostile. But then again, aren't Raiders fans the same way? It's another fight scene that appears rushed and glossed over. At least this time there's somewhat of an explanation. Remember those Kaddek that Skull mentioned earlier? Well they show up and they're not only as hostile as Raider Fans, they look like ET's crack addict cousins. Unlike ET, they have creepy glowing heads instead of a simple glowing finger. Those glowing heads give them the kind of mental powers they need to put their enemies in a world of hurt. It's pretty fucked up, but then it gets slightly less fucked up with Lee Forester shows up.

Or maybe it's slightly more fucked up because Lee, in addition to looking cock-smashingly hot in jungle girl attire, was working with the Kaddek on what she called a peace treaty. How someone as hot as her can be diplomatic is the stuff slash fiction is made of. She seems to have a valid explanation why these big-headed assholes are giving them seizures, but it's an explanation that will have to wait for the next issue. It seems like a bit of a waste since Lee was the whole reason the X-men ventured to this place. However, it does fit with the whole theme of glossing over scenes and not making them very interesting.

Wolverine, Pixie, and Thing are still in a much better situation than Cyclops, Emma, and Sue. As expected, they're imprisoned. Also in an overly expected twist, Doom shows up alongside the king. So remember that joke I made earlier about the king acting a lot like Doom? Well it wasn't exactly a joke. Being the asshole that he is, Doom decided to go behind everybody's back and pull a few deals. You would think that the X-men and the FF would be a bit more careful when working with an asshole like him. I won't say it's utterly stupid since the arc isn't finished yet, but whatever Doom's reasons it's still overly predictable. If you didn't see it coming, you're either high or brain damaged. It's a not-so-interesting end to a not-so-interesting comic.

So Dr. Doom is screwing people over. Yeah, that's about as surprising as finding out you got herpes from a hooker in Mexico. I don't know if it was meant to be surprising, but in a comic that was high on aesthetics and low on story it certainly could have helped. But it didn't and that renders this issue a mixed bag of sorts and not the kind of shit you would expect on Halloween. Instead of candy, it's like having a half-eaten chocolate bar buried underneath frozen broccoli. There's still plenty to enjoy, but it's not nearly enough to get excited about.

This issue and this arc have a number of solid elements going for it. This issue certainly succeeded in explaining what this crazy new world is, why Lee Forester and her buddies saw fit to brave the Bermuda Triangle to get to it, and who was going out of their way to fuck with the X-men and the FF. There's a tangible plot here that I'm sure the card-carrying members of Greenpeace would approve of. Some greedy prick is willing to circumvent oil drilling regulations by setting up shop in an alien world. I imagine that if the Koch brothers or Enron were presented with an opportunity like this, they would jump on it like Homer Simpson at a bacon factory. In addition to greed, you get the shady kind of diplomacy that Michael Moore fans love to bitch about. Between Doom pulling a back room deal and tyranical alien creatures that love to imprison hot blondes, it's just like dealing with North Korea. Only with slightly less insanity.

While I applaud Victor Gischler for providing details and style to the story, it was still a slow-moving if not overly random story at times. The transitions or lack thereof made it difficult to follow in certain areas. We don't really have an idea of how Cyclops, Emma, and Sue affect the mission for Wolverine, Thing, and Pixie. Spider-Man didn't even show up and Reed's techno-babble with Dr. Nemesis just seemed pointless. Now I was eager to get into the adjectiveless X-men series after Chris Yost's wonderful First to Last arc. This arc with the FF started in a promising way, but it's starting to fizzle. Maybe that's because Fear Itself and Schism are causing so many shake-ups, but it certainly doesn't help that nothing all that exciting seems to happen in this issue. It still has the potential to be awesome, but it also has a ways to. That's why I give X-men #17 a 2.5 out of 5. It's as mediocre as you'll get. It'll give you plenty to enjoy and plenty to bitch about. In a sense, it's the most balanced non-Schism X-book you'll ever read. Nuff said!

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