Thursday, December 29, 2011
Uncanny X-men #3 - Sinister Plus Celestials Equals Awesome
Every good comic has it's own special formula. It's like a good recipe for pot brownies. If you don't know what you're doing, not only will you not get high but chances are you'll end up eating what amounts to a wad of dead leaves mixed with dog shit. But if you're competent in your craft and have a touch of talent, you'll get so high you'll have dreams of playing chess with Ben Franklin and a naked Carmen Electra while enjoying a damn good brownie in the process. Kieron Gillen has shown on numerous occasions that he has his shit together when it comes to X-men. He takes it almost as seriously as I take booze. While his comics may not get you as high as my uncles pot brownie recipe, they offer a level of high quality thrills that make it among the elite crop of the X-men.
Gillen had to contend with being double teamed in a way that only porn stars understand. He not only had to close out Uncanny X-men after 544 issues. He had to relaunch it after the results of Schism. Marvel might as well have asked him to perform open heart surgery and a colonoscopy on a rapid grizzly. But the first arc of the new Uncanny X-men has hit hard with the kind of threat that only the most powerful mutants in the X-books are equipped to deal with. Sinister has always been more pesky than Andy Dick at a gay bar. But throw a Celestial into the mix and you've got a level of fucked up that's on a cosmic scale. This is the kind of shit that even the Avengers would have problems handling and that is the theme of this new Uncanny team. And Kieron Gillen is set to cement that theme with the final issue of this first arc.
Uncanny X-men #3 begins after the X-men made the unpleasant discovery that Sinister's new army of look-alikes don't exactly die after you kill the one that doesn't shut up. This is not a case where you find the prime host, shoot him in the head, grab some popcorn, and watch the rest of the duplicates meltdown like Herman Cain's presidential campaign. Sinister has made clear that he's evolved beyond being a mere being that's nuttier than a fruitcake and only slightly more useful around the holidays. He's become an entire ecosystem all his own, complete with a variety of fashionable incarnations that can deliver an abundance of politically correct ass-kicking. The X-men continue to tear into him, but they might as well be trying to win a debate with a creationist. There's just no winning when there's an endless supply of clones/bullshit.
But Sinister isn't the kind of guy that stops at beating up on the X-men with an army of clones. When you're as crazy as him, you just have to go the extra mile and kick the kind of overkill in the balls. In the last issue, Hope Summers had to swipe Emma Frost's telepathy to protect the minds of everyone on the team from being...you know, paralyzed. But Sinister quickly catches up with her. Well, at least part of him does and no that's not a porno joke. He confronts her and taunts her about her nature and the aspects of it that's been kept from her. He's not subtle this time. He doesn't call it the "city in Arizona." He flat out says it to Hope. He says the word Phoenix in front of her.
Now this has the potential to be a volatile moment. Marvel already announced that the Phoenix Force is coming back for Avengers vs. X-men and it was revealed that it scorched the future Earth in X-Sanction #1 (a comic you should totally buy). But this is an event that's still building so it's not too egregious when Hope decides to respond to this P-word by shooting Sinister in the fucking head. Now you could argue that this was glossed over, but Hope shooting guys like Sinister in the head is actually quite true to her character when you think about it. She hears something she doesn't like. She shoots it. Just like Cable taught her!
Taunting aside, Hope's propensity for shooting people in the head that bring up the "city in Arizona" does little to stem Sinister's assault. His army of Sinisters continue beating down on the X-men's most powerful forces. The whole time, he maintains the kind of snide look that only Gordan Ramsey could match. It seems like the X-men are trying to clean Led Zepplin's hotel rooms with a toothbrush. Then Sinister is reminded that shooting people with cannons tend to piss them off. No, I'm not stoned. That actually happened in the last issue. Danger was on the business end of said cannon and has been MIA ever since. She finally shows up and pulls off an attack that would make Skynet proud, taking down a good chunk of Sinister's forces by shooting him in the head in a way that Hope can only envy.
Unfortunately, even a walking Danger Room can't take down an army of Sinisters. Remember, this isn't a rip-off of Attack of the Clones. George Lucas can't sue (although he may end up trying) because these aren't clones the X-men are dealing with. Sinister is his own system. Each duplicate is Sinister in every respect, not a clone. Shooting one is like stepping on a single ant in a fire ant colony. Not only will it do nothing to stop the danger, but it'll only piss them off and give them more reason to bite you. And in Sinister's case, these fire ants have guns and overly gay costumes.
But as crafty as Sinister may be, he's not above fucking up. And fuck up he does when he reminds the X-men that he crafted his little Sinister army using Cyclops's brain patterns. Well that may seem like a good idea on paper until you have to fight the woman who is currently fucking Cyclops's brains out on a regular basis. Plus, he blew off said woman's arm. That's not going to help. So in an act that shows that Emma has balls as big as her boobs, she turns into her flesh form again. Keep in mind, she had an army blown off so she gets Namor (who also wants to bone her) to hold her arm in place to prevent her from bleeding to death. Then through pain that is probably more intense than sitting through several seasons of the Jersey Shore, she uses her knowledge of Cyclops's mind (and penis) to rip into Sinister and destroy his so-called system.
This sounds like a somewhat simplistic means to defeat Sinister, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Kieron Gillen has shown on many occasions that he's very attentive to detail. This is the kind of vulnerability that even Sinister couldn't avoid and given Emma's knack for being a cut-throat bitch/omega level psychic, she's more than capable of taking full advantage of it. There are so many other more contrived ways the X-men could have turned the tide, but this just works on so many levels and Gillen deserves credit for thinking things through. It sounds simple, but I've seen one too many comics where the writers plan about as meticulously as a stoned Wiley Coyote.
So Sinister is back to being a one-man army, but he's not all that broken up about it. If anything, he looks amused. He further shows that he's got plenty of power to spare. He actually teleports the whole San Francisco Arts Center away in a flash. He says it'll make a good headquarters and he's right. Beats the hell out of abandoned missile silos and underground bunkers on the moon. Then before he makes his escape, he offers a warning to Cyclops. The next time he'll be more hated than anyone and he'll lose everything he loves. That would be horribly cliched if the recent announcements regarding Avengers vs. X-men hadn't emerged. It actually may be a clue as to what he's about to face. Then he makes his escape by shooting himself in the head. No really. That's what he does. He's Sinister. He's still a system and even if he wasn't, it's still a badass way to make an exit.
Once he's out, that leaves one last loose end to tie up. Sinister didn't just scrap this elaborate ploy together with shit from Ebay. He used a fucking Celestial. Well since the last issue, Magneto has been using his powers to keep that Celestial in one piece before it decides to blow up every atom making up planet Earth. Yeah, Celestials are capable of that. Well when they arrive, the Dreaming Celestial that Sinister hijacked is back to normal. But the knowledge that someone fucked with it was more than a little distressing to the rest of the Celestials. They show up on Earth presumably pissed, even through those expressionless faces of theirs. Even space gods don't like to be fucked with.
Even though these are the X-men's heaviest hitters, they know they're overmatched. So they don't try to fight the Celestials. They try reasoning with them in a way that Johnny Cochran might have used in defending one of his clients. Cyclops explains that they took down the guy that messed with their friend. He also explains that since the Dreaming Celestial was on Earth and Earth was under their protection, the Celestial was under their protection. It was a fucked up bit of logic, but thankfully the Dreaming Celestial vouches for them. Space Gods may not like to be fucked with, but they also aren't so unreasonable that they would take their frustrations out on those that help them.
So the Celestials fly off. The X-men can officially say they stared down Sinister and an army of space gods and both blinked. It's a fitting way to show the power of this heavy hitting team. This is the kind of shit that even the Avengers would have a hard time dealing with. It's here where Gillen reveals that a battle of this caliber does not go unnoticed even in a town like San Francisco where you can chalk most amazing sights to bad medical marijuana. A large number of civilians saw the X-men take on Sinister and the Celestials. They also saw them succeed. It's not like the Avengers. They don't cheer as much as they smile while shitting their pants. Yes, they're alive. But they now realize that they're dealing with a group of X-men that is not to be fucked with. That's just the kind of message that Cyclops wants to send and in the end that helps reinforce the underlying theme of this new saga of Uncanny X-men.
Uncanny X-men #3 is in many ways a mirror of Wolverine and the X-men #3. Both these books are linked because they follow the paths of the schism that Jason Aaron established. Both books spent the first arcs establishing the themes of each series. Wolverine and the X-men succeeded in presenting a book that had a more light-hearted, youthful approach that depicted the X-men as a school with all their conflicts building around that premise. Uncanny X-men presented a very different approach. It established a team of X-men that would set itself apart by being powerful to the point that it would evoke both fear and respect from humans and mutants alike. It's a different kind of heroics that has both noble and nefarious undertones. And I can safely say with this issue that Gillen succeeded in the same way that Jason Aaron had done with Wolverine and the X-men.
It isn't just that Kieron Gillen brought in big threats like Sinister and the Celestials. It isn't just that he had some of the most powerful X-men in the Marvel universe either. The key here is that he developed the story and resolved the battle that ensued in a believable, dramatic, and in some cases graphic sort of way. I mean Emma Frost lost a fucking arm for crying out loud! You're not going to see that kind of shit in a light-hearted book like Wolverine and the X-men. Not only that, he had the X-men deal with the Celestials in a believable way. It worked and came together nicely, even if the end was a bit cliched. So Sinister didn't succeed in killing them as usual, but he made an all-too-predictable escape with an all-too-predictable threat. However, this threat may actually have some merit given what's set to happen with Avengers vs. X-men. So I guess it's not too cliched to be awesome.
Uncanny X-men #3 tops off a solid inaugural arc that succeeds in setting the tone for this next phase of the series. This series definitely feels different from Uncanny X-men #544 and all the issues that came before it. There are some very ominous undertones here. Granted, the first arc was only three issues and wasn't overly epic despite the threat of Sinister and the Celestials. Some may finish this arc feeling it was too short and too underdone. But in the context of this series, I think Kieron Gillen has done something very special here. He's got so much to work with and he's shown that he can be as potent as any pot brownie. With that in mind, I give Uncanny X-men #3 a 5 out of 5. So the X-men's heavy hitters took on Sinister and the Celestials. What could they possibly take on next? Aside from a pissed off Emma Frost that can't give a decent hand job anymore? I don't know, but with Gillen at the helm it's sure to an awesome venture for the world of X!