Saturday, October 8, 2011
X-men Schism #5 - Destructive Awesome
Breaking up is a real pain. You get into long, meaningless fights with some alpha-bitch that makes all these wild accusations of what (and who) you may have or haven't done when you were wasted. You throw shit at each other that isn't meant to be thrown. You make death threats you don't mean to make that end up getting the police, the FBI, and the ACLU involved. But divorce papers, scratch marks, and black eyes are temporary. The break-up of the X-men is a fucking epic that reverberates through a whole universe. I once tried explaining this to my ex-girlfriends. Some called the cops on me. Some threw shit at me. One says I gave her the clap. But the rest didn't argue. I think it's safe to say that we X-fans have all been humbled somewhat by the events in Jason Aaron's X-men Schism.
It had to happen sooner or later. Jean Grey' pussy ensured that Cyclops and Wolverine would not like each other from the get-go. Now that mutants are no longer going extinct and they have the mutant messiah on their side, these two can't agree on how to handle this new generation. Granted, these two probably couldn't agree what to put on a pizza, but that's besides the point. The concept of causing a big divide between Cyclops and Wolverine in and of itself isn't revolutionary. It's like indoor plumbing. At some point someone had to come along and say "Hey! What if we didn't have to shit in pots anymore?" It's an obvious issue, but it's the way that Jason Aaron has handled it that has made it so incredibly awesome.
Aaron had a challenge akin to performing brain surgery while walking a tight-rope. He had to create a conflict that would not only drive Cyclops and Wolverine apart, but make it so one didn't come off as too much of an asshole. There's already a fervent anti-Cyclops crowd and a fervent anti-Wolverine crowd. Throwing them a bone with this would bring the fanboy equivalent of a civil war and the last thing Marvel wants is for it's fans to start choking each other to death. Aside from using homicidal kids in the Hellfire Club, Jason Aaron found the perfect solution. Cyclops crossed a line when he ordered Idie to kill the Hellfire guards in order to save the team. For Wolverine, turning kids into killers doesn't sit well with them. By that I mean he's willing to blow up the whole fucking island to prove his point. It's not an invalid point, but resorting to explosives is overkill I guess. Then again a sentinel is attacking them so I'm a bit conflicted.
Between the sentinel, using kids as X-men, and making remarks about Jean Grey Cyclops and Wolverine erupted in an epic battle that made for some of the juiciest moments for X-books we've seen in years. It was so juicy that if you put it on a Five Guys burger your brain would shut down due to the sheer bliss. All that frustration, hate, and cock-blocking with Jean Grey finally boiled over. And that epic fight continues within the first pages of X-men Schism. Some may say it's being overly drawn out, but it doesn't matter if it's awesome!
The two men bloody each other, blast each other, and just plain tear into each other. There's no talking or arguing like there was in the last issue. It's basically a street fight where you pump the two fighters with PCP, have them insult each others' mother, and just sit back to enjoy the fun. In the midst of this bitter grudge match, both Cyclops and Wolverine seem to forget that there's a fucking sentinel looming over them. Even when it tries to attack them, they go out of their way to save one another just so they can keep beating the shit out of each other. So it's Cyclops and Wolverine fighting plus a giant killer robot. What more do you want in an X-men comic? Unless you wrap it in bacon or dip it in chocolate, you can't get much better!
It gets to a point where Cyclops and Wolverine are beating each other up so thoroughly that they're actually doing the sentinel a favor. Keep in mind this isn't an ordinary sentinel that you can just shoot in the head and watch it die. This is that freaky suitcase sentinel that those annoying Hellfire kids unleashed. Shooting it or clawing it just won't do the trick. Cyclops and Wolverine must realize that at some point in between beating the shit out of each other. If they didn't, the young X-men certainly did. Remember them? The same X-men that Wolverine chased off when he threatened to blow up the island? Well proving once again that young X-men can still kick ass, they defy Wolverine's threat and join the fight. At some point, Wolverine realizes that blowing up the island would be unnecessary and a supremely dick move. So he doesn't.
Now this scene has a greater importance that adds to the overall balance of the book. In previous issue, Cyclops was the one that came off as a bigger douche. He was the one that ordered Idie to kill. He was the one that assembled the young X-men to fight for him against the sentinel. Anti-Cyclops clubs everywhere were engaged in rage-filled circle jerks over this, but this scene shows that he was right on some levels. These kids can fight and hold their own. Moreover, they don't have to run just to protect their innocence. Beating the shit out of a sentinel works just as well. So in some sense the anti-Wolverine crowd can now have their own rage-filled circle jerks. It still doesn't absolve Cyclops of all the shit he did in the previous four issues.
After nearly ten pages of beating each other to a bloody pulp, Wolverine and Cyclops zip up their pants and set aside the dick-measuring stick so they can help out against the sentinels. It's a great moment that leads to yet another dead sentinel. And who doesn't love that? In a ways it's also somewhat bittersweet because you get the sense that this may be the last time we you see Wolverine and Cyclops fighting side-by-side. After beating each other up, threatening to blow up the island, and bringing up Jean Grey it seems unlikely that these two will kicking ass together anytime soon. It's nice to see the younger, less flashy X-men get in on the action as well. But beyond the senseless violence, there is a deeper meaning here and one that definitely resonates.
The sentinel is defeated. It doesn't go down easy, but they manage to destroy it without blowing up Utopia. Although I have to admit, blowing up an island would have been pretty awesome. While it's a triumphant moment on the surface, it's clear from that constipated looks on Wolverine and Cyclops's that there's no way to kiss and make up from this shit. They both crossed lines that can't be uncrossed. There's just no conceivable way they can save their bromance at this point. It's a very subtle, yet important moment because you know from the look in Wolverine's eye he's thinking "I'm outta here and I need a beer!" The beer part is always implied.
Once the fireworks stop, the rest of the X-men that were scattered abroad to stop the sentinels return. Those who were paralyzed by the Hellfire kids (again, they were fucking kids) emerge from their nappy poo. Of course they're too late and they have to catch up on all the melodrama between Wolverine and Cyclops. The fallout is already settling in. It's most apparent with the mutant that started it all, Idie. She really shined in this story and in many ways, she's the tipping point for Wolverine. She actually says she's glad that she killed the Hellfire guards because that meant her friends wouldn't have to. She accepts that she's a monster and that makes her perfectly fine with killing. Wolverine, naturally, really doesn't like that because he's a monster himself and he's fucking miserable half the time. No teenage girl deserves that.
This scene helps serve as a reminder that Cyclops crossed an important line. By making Idie kill, he's really affected her in a way that Wolverine can't overlook. Since mutants aren't going extinct anymore, that means there could be more like her. And if Cyclops is the only game in town, what's to stop them from becoming like Idie? Sure, Cyclops was right about getting help from the young X-men, but his decision had a profound affect on an innocent girl. In that sense, Wolverine's point is reinforced and he makes his decision clear.
Like two men that just beat the shit out of each other over a ham sandwich only to find out that a rat already ate it, there's an awkward moment between Wolverine and Cyclops. They both beat the shit out of each other and it makes for an awkward situation. To their credit, they act like grown men. Cyclops asks for patience, but Wolverine outright says they failed and he can't take this shit anymore. He's turning in his resignation letter. He's giving his boss the finger. He's playing a Hank Williams Jr. minus the forced apology. The scene effectively completes the schism and it's a very satisfying moment.
Later on, Wolverine packs his things and is joined by some like-minded followers who decide that he has a point and Cyclops is being too much of a dick. So while Wolverine is taking the X-jet (presumably as a half-hearted apology from Cyclops), he sends a few X-men to investigate the Hellfire Club that fucked up his bromance. Warpath, Domino, and Gambit don't find those annoying kids. Instead, they find a room of creepy old men who the kids apparently poisoned. I suppose it's for the best, otherwise there would be way too many pedophile connotations that Marvel would have to work around. They're okay with casting Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, but they aren't quite ready to play the pedophilia angles yet.
Speaking of those annoying Hellfire brats, we don't get an explanation for the WTF they filled this story with. They were actually watching as the X-men defeated the sentinel. Then they left the corpses of the old dead men that were probably going to go Catholic Church on their asses and left for a tropical get-away. They reveal that the whole suitcase sentinel was basically a demonstration. The rest of the world found out their old sentinel models are shit. So they provided them with a very public display of the new model. They're basically parading their new sentinels like the fucking iphone and it's working.
Once again, I'm left to point out that these are fucking kids and they essentially came out of nowhere. I get that fucked up shit happens in comics, but crazy kids taking over the Hellfire? And doing a competent job of it? I'm not saying it's impossible. I'm just saying it's too ridiculous to take seriously in a story that had a very serious premise.
Crazy homicidal kids aside, the schism is complete. Once Wolverine and his new crew leave Utopia, they look for a new place to set up shop. They're no longer welcome on Utopia and staying in San Francisco would just be too awkward. It would be like moving next door after your girlfriend kicked you out for using her credit card to buy blow. Since the new ways didn't seem to work, Wolverine decided to give some old ways a second chance. So with Idie by his side and a number of other mutants, they return to the ruins of the Xavier Institute to rebuild. Granted, it's still a pile of rubble and I'm left to wonder why nobody bothered to clear that shit out, but I guess it's better late than never.
So there you have it. The band has broken up. Only in this case there won't be a surplus of shitty solo albums to follow. Half this comic was mindless action and destroying killer robots. That in and of itself could constitute most modern comics in some respects, but that would only make them good. It wouldn't make them awesome. What makes Schism awesome is the balance Jason Aaron provides. With the other half of the issue, he establishes the two sides. He doesn't leave Wolverine and Cyclops as enemies, but he doesn't leave them as friends either. It goes back to that balance I mentioned earlier. He made it so both sides have their merits. He also set the stage for the both Uncanny X-men and Wolverine and the X-men. It's a complete, balanced, utterly awesome story. Now I'm sure this won't stop the anti-Cyclops and anti-Wolverine crowds from becoming more vocal, but at least neither side can be too big an asshole about how their preferred character was portrayed in this story. They're both equally heroic and equally anti-heroic. That's the best possible way Aaron could have played it.
As much as I've enjoyed Schism, there is still one sticking point that keeps this story from being as perfect as Natalie Portman's ass. It's those damn Hellfire kids. I still can't wrap my head around that shit. Seriously? A bunch of homicidal kids take over the Hellfire Club? I get that comics do some pretty fucked up shit with physics, spandex, mythology, and female bra sizes. But that was just too WTF for me. Now if those kids were somehow possessed by something or being part alien, then I wouldn't have as much of a problem. Hell, even if they were teenagers that would make it more believable. But kids? That was just an eye-rolling moment in between drooling over the wonderful images of Cyclops and Wolverine beating the tar out of each other.
It's rare that I get this excited about an X-men story. It's even rarer when it exceeds my expectations. Schism has done that and more, putting it in the same domain as Second Coming in terms of sheer awesome. It not only feels like a logical progression of the recent conflicts within the X-books. Jason Aaron does tells the story in a creative, enjoyable way that's engaging on so many different levels that I would need several other blogs to fully describe it. So I'll settle for giving X-men Schism #5 a 4.5 out of 5. I'm sorry, but I couldn't give a perfect score with those damn Hellfire kids. Now that Schism is over, Regenesis can begin and the X-books can take on a new life. For this, I am thankful and so excited that I'll need a few shots of horse tranquilizers to sleep tonight. But it's worth it! Nuff said.