Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Generation Hope #14 - Secrets No Longer Buried (Yet Still Awesome)
Sometimes comic books, like shitty football teams, have a lot working against them. They stuck in a crappy division with a lot of good teams or they're like the Indianapolis Colts and were stupid enough to build everything around one player that they thought would never get injured. Generation Hope may not be in the AFC East or have Peyton Manning as a quarterback, but it does have the misfortune of being a title that doesn't feature major X-men characters at a time when the books that do (namely Wolverine and the X-men, Uncanny X-men, and Uncanny X-Force) are kicking so much ass that Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder would mud wrestle each other for the chance to sign them if they were football players. However, that doesn't mean that Generation Hope hasn't held it's own.
James Asmus came in at a pretty fucked up time. Schism was over. Regenesis began. He really couldn't start from scratch or anything. He had to continue what Kieron Gillen established. That doesn't always sit well with certain writers and it's not uncommon for those stories to just fall apart because writers aren't inclined to give a shit about a story they didn't start. But Asmus started off quite nicely with Generation Hope #13. He set up a conflict with Jean-I mean Hope (what did you expect?) and her Lights involving a story that spun right out of Uncanny X-men. They basically stumbled ass backwards into Emma Frost's little secret about keeping Sebastian Shaw mind-wiped and secluded in Pakistan. So without asking questions, the Jean Gr-I mean Hope leads her lights on a mission complete with Kenji's new squeeze, Martha (who happens to be just a brain), and their new member on a rescue mission. Everything was going as shitty as anything else that goes on in that part of the world. Then Shaw gave Fox News something to jerk off to when he played the role of suicide bomber and set of an explosion that ended the last issue in dramatic fashion.
Generation Hope #14 picks up with the ears of the Lights still ringing. They all survive, of course. Marvel may hate redheads that look like Jean Grey, but they aren't that stupid. While everything around them is blown to shit, Je-I mean Hope (get some liquor in me and I'll get it right) is okay because she can tap powers like Velocidad's to make time work in her favor. Kenji did the rest with the Lights, protecting them in a shell that presumably doesn't involve tentacle rape. While I could make more comments about Japanese fetishes, Kenji does have a somewhat more prominent role here. Remember Martha? That brain on a stem that for reasons only Japanese men understand gave him a boner? Well she's been damaged and he's freaking out. The revelation that the bomber (Shaw) they encountered is still in one piece is secondary.
But Shaw isn't the only asshole involved for once. Even if Emma Frost did fuck up his mind, he's not the kind of guy who just blows himself up for kicks. Keep in mind, the Light's newest member, Pixie, got separated from the team in the last issue. And as is often the case with teenage girls in a shitty part of the world, she runs into the wrong crowd. But much to the dismay of Fox News, they don't look anything like the dirty terrorists that Lou Dobbs loves to rant against. They look like neatly dressed thugs who just robbed an Old Navy. Aside from their shitty tastes in clothes, they do have Pixie contained in what looks like giant rock candy. They also have big ass guns so Hope (thank you high grade whiskey!) and her Lights are in deep shit.
Now keep in mind they weren't asked to go on this mission. They basically stumbled into it at the expense of Emma Frost and her Cuckoos. Back on Utopia, Cyclops gets word that Hope has run off into an unforgiving battlefield again. Seeing as how he's sacrificed a lot for this girl that looks strikingly similar to his dead wife, that frustrated him. However, he still doesn't know about Shaw and Emma Frost makes sure it stays that way. She tells him to run off and try to something like stressful, like brain surgery. And like a completely pussy-whipped boyfriend, he does. This leaves Emma and her Lights to deal with Shaw. And Emma is quick to point out that this isn't another secret that they agreed to avoid. This is just shit she hasn't told him yet.
I don't care how hot Emma is, but that's just bullshit. Some of that goes to Marvel as well because for quite some time now, they've let Emma Frost get away with pretty much everything. They dedicated an entire issue after Utopia to Cyclops and Emma coming clean about their secrets. And what's Emma do? She keeps another secret regarding Sebastian Shaw. Now this doesn't bother me as much as the fact that it never seems to affect her relationship with Cyclops. Just this past week, Marvel pretty much threw the Psylocke/Angel relationship into a tailspin. This week, X-23 and Hellion were pretty much ended. Hell, these people broke up Mary Jane and Spider-Man by literally making a deal with the devil. Yet they won't do shit for Cyclops and Emma? Just because their relationship has the depth of a porno? Fuck me with a jackhammer, but that's just stupid. I know I've gone on this rant before, but it bears repeating when shit like this happens. I hope I'm wrong, but like Fox News broadcast without the bullshit I'll believe it when I see it.
Keep in mind that Hope and the Lights are completely unaware of Shaw's history and his capacity to be a massive douche. However, they do quickly realize that there are certain shades of brown in this shit that aren't normal. For one, Shaw isn't young like the other new mutant signatures. In addition, he can't remember who the fuck he is. They don't know Emma Frost has weeded through his brain and rewired one too many neurons. All they know is he's got major blocks on his mind and they need to figure it out because in Hope's experience, anomalies like this usually need to get shot later.
This is where Kenji's creepy Japanese fetishes come in once more. Because they do actually have a telepath on their side now in the form of Martha Johannson. Yeah, she was just a brain in a jar, but Kenji is an artist. He's also a nice enough guy to create an entire body for her using his Akira rip-off form. Is it any surprise that the body he creates is very boneable? Okay, maybe it would require a number of drinks to work up the urge, but still it's no worse than mistaking a hooker for a transvestite. It's another instance of Kenji showing some theatrics, which he hasn't really shown since his first arc. It was overdue and Asmus pulls it off nicely.
With Martha's help and her new body, she's able to reveal some details about Shaw's background. She can't get bast Emma's blocks, but she can confirm that he showed up in Pakistan with no memory and no idea how to ask the locales for the nearest bar. He ended up running into (or being ran over may be a more accurate statement) a guy named Jin Billion. I'm sorry, but not since Johnny Cash has anyone ever used money in their name and turned out not to be an asshole. So while at first Shaw thought he could help him with all his cool stolen tech. He was wrong. And since Shaw doesn't have any memory about what an asshole he was, he decided that guys like this need to be blown up. So that's what he's been doing and doing a pretty damn good job of it for the most part.
There's basically a lot of talking and not many answers. The comic starts dragging at this point. We get it. Shaw doesn't have any memory and he got roped up with people who took advantage of him. That's poetic justice in it's most beautiful form, but all this is happening when Pixie is captured and a bunch of heavily armed badly dressed men are on their way. Even if you hate Pixie, you kind of have to give a damn for the sake of the story.
When shit finally does get heavy, Jin and his boys find Shaw and the Lights. They make it clear that Shaw is theirs and they have Pixie as leverage. Shaw, acting heroic for the first time in his miserable life, tries to defend Hope and the Lights. That goes about as well as you would expect in this part of the world. Jin is about as understanding as a loan shark with impulse control issues and starts shooting at the Lights. They competent enough to defend themselves, but it's an overly basic match. Jin and his toys prove to be nothing special. They just dress flashy and shoot fancy guns. They're kind of like cowboys without the bad accent and Chuck Norris connotations.
Eventually, Shaw gets sick of it and decides it's time to end this. So while the Lights hold their own, he taps that ruthless side of him that we all know and love and taked down Jin. This time it's a bit more flashy even if it's a little late for it. Those fancy guns he was packing turn out to be pretty unstable. All Shaw has to do is break them and they behave as you would expect any poorly made Chinese product to operate. If the blast doesn't kill Jin, the lead poisoning sure will. While this is going on, Martha finds out where Pixie is being held and Velocidad goes after her. Keep in mind this is the same guy that's trying to bone her so it could have been an equally awesome fight. But it wasn't. It was glossed over. He just says that Jin's B-team sucked and he has the girl. So between some parts dragging and others being glossed over, it's not the most elaborate finish for such a conflict. But it's satisfying none-the-less.
So Shaw is back at square one. He has no idea who he is and all Jin did was screw with him. He has some idea that he's not a nice guy, but seeing as how Hope was raised by someone who was never all that pleasant to be around she offers him a chance to come back with them. She doesn't know that Shaw doesn't play well with pretty redheads that look like Jean Grey and have the Phoenix Force. So she's already pissing on an electric fence without knowing it. But that doesn't change Shaw's decision. He agrees to go back.
This goes about as well as you would expect. Shaw arrives on Utopia and guess who's there to greet them? Remember how pissed Cyclops was when he found out that Hope and the Lights ran off to Pakistan? Well take that level of pissed off and multiply that by a billion and that's how pissed off he is to see Sebastian Shaw. A few issues ago, he noted that he knew about the "city in Arizona" as he called it. He also remembers what happens the last time when Shaw tried to set up shop in that city. He doesn't even know that the woman he's boning (who also happens to be Shaw's ex) has been lying to him. So between Shaw's arrival and Emma's secrets, Cyclops is pretty much fucked in all the wrong ways.
So we've come full circle. The events that started in Uncanny have been successfully picked up in Generation Hope and assembled in solid opening arc for James Asmus. There's a lot to like about Asmus's style here. Forget for a moment that Hope and her team have no idea what they've gotten themselves into. Remember how they went about it. Hope just dove right in with her Lights, assuming at this was another distress call like all the other distress calls they had encountered thus far. It doesn't just show that Emma Frost is as good at keeping secrets as she is keeping boners stiff. It shows that Hope's team is still immature and brash. They don't know Sebastian Shaw. They don't know that he's bad news, especially around redheaded girls with the Phoenix Force. It's the first time the youth of this team has really been played up and Asmus plays it well.
While it is a solid issue, it involves a bit too much talking at times. This is one of those rare instances where substance exceeds style, but not by much. I like that Asmus was thorough in explaining what Shaw had been going through and what he had been up against. It just made the story feel stalled at times. In the end it still came together. Asmus did a great job linking this arc to the arc in Uncanny where Emma first mind-wiped Shaw. He also had a very valid reaction from Cyclops in the end, one that could have been glossed over but wasn't. It makes the reader want to pick up the next issue just to see how pissed off he'll be when he finds out what his big-breasted barbie doll girlfriend has been keeping from him.
Generation Hope still has the misfortune of being sort of an Uncanny X-men lite. This feels like a story that could have been told in Uncanny. As this series has progressed, it seems more and more finite. Unlike the other regenesis books, this one doesn't feel like it has a solid future. It feels like with every issue it's nearing the limit of what stories it can tell. For what it's wroth, Asmus makes the most of this issue. He hits all the right gears albeit at a staggered pace and for that I give Generation Hope #14 a 4 out of 5. So now Emma Frost's hypocrisy is exposed, but will anything come of it? Will Marvel ever do anything to undermine their sexiest female character and risk the vital masturbation audience? I'm starting a pool now. I say they won't even try. Then again, I've been wrong before. Nuff said!