Saturday, December 3, 2011
X-men Legacy #259 - Penultimate Mystery Awesome
The end of an era is always vulnerable to a certain level of fucked upedness. When someone spends a long time on something, they tend to embody it to the point that stepping down becomes a bit of a spectacle. Just ask Brett Favre. Okay, bad example and too many dick joke connotations. What I'm trying to get at with my drunken ramblings is that Mike Carey has pretty much defined X-men Legacy. His long tenure has been so thoroughly awesome that it's hard to imagine this series thriving without him. It's going to have to very soon because there's only one two-issue arc left in his legendary run. This arc is part epilogue and part prologue because it tackles the events immediately proceeding Schism. It's a pretty important part of the ongoing X-men mythos, but like the unfortunate cars in every Michael Bay movie the story is bound to be lost in the spectacle of Mike Carey's departure.
I've made my opinions on Mike Carey's run pretty clear since I started reviewing comics in between binge drinking and writing X-men Supreme. He's been one of the most consistent X-men writers in decades. He has Chris Claremont's longevity without Matt Fraction's personality quirks. Like Tom Brady in the pocket, he goes about his business with a cool and collected style. Granted, I'm sure Mike Carey wishes he could include the part where he knocks up Brazilian supermodels, but that's besides the point. X-men Legacy #258 marked the end of his last big arc. It brought Havok, Rachel, and Polaris back to Earth after a nearly four-year hiatus. And it was Mike Carey at his best. Now with X-men Legacy #259, he begins his last arc and it doesn't involve nearly as much sci-fi shoot 'em ups. It's a bittersweet notion that he's finally getting ready to say goodbye to the series that he made so awesome, but no one will blame him if he doesn't care to restrict his brilliance to X-men comics.
The final arc of Mike Carey's run is like his previous arc in the sense that it takes place before much of the Regensis comics. For a while now it seems as though X-men Legacy has been like the state of Mississippi. It's so behind the times that it still thinks Jesus road dinosaurs in his battle against Judas's homosexual inter-racial army of abortion doctors. But with the return of Havok, Rachel, and Polaris the series is finally catching up. Now it was already touched on during the X-men Regenesis one-shot what Rogue, Gambit, Magneto, Frenzy and the rest of the Legacy crew decided. This just fleshes it out a bit more.
It starts with Rogue as Mike Carey's books so often do. She hasn't left Utopia yet. She and Gambit take a break from humping to Mardi Gras music to reflect on all the shit that's happened under Cyclops's leadership. She touches on everything from the Messiah Trilogy to Necrosha to Dark Reign. It isn't just for the sake of a random Family Guy style flashback either. She recalls these events because they show how Cyclops has led the X-men effectively enough for them to...you know, survive. And just walking away from that isn't easy and it really shouldn't be. But Gambit being the overly pragmatic scoundrel that he is at heart reminds her that like the NFL, the X-men are a very what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type team and Cyclops has screwed the pooch a bit too hard this time. Insert whatever Bestiality joke you want from that.
In an effort to unscrew the pooch or at least help the pooch cope with the trauma, Cyclops gets a long overdue visit from his brother. It's the kind of reunion that has been years in the making. Havok now knows what happened while he and Polaris were of humping in deep space. We don't get to see his reaction to shit like moving to the West Coast, forging Utopia, and the Mutant Messiah. But that would probably just consist of one page of him picking his jaw up off the floor. The events of Schism are far more pressing. He doesn't belittle his brother as brothers are so inclined to do. He tries to encourage Cyclops to find some middle ground with Wolverine. In his mind there's no need for a schism. It just goes to show he's been gone a long time.
Now I may be getting ahead of myself here, but I might as well bring it up. This is the closest this comic even gets to showing Rachel, Havok, and Polaris's reaction to all the shit that's gone down since they've been gone. No one mentions Hope Summers. No one brings up Norman Osborn or Professor Xavier's absence. It's a deeply underwhelming and disappointing development because some of this shit really shouldn't be ignored. I think someone needs to stand up and point out that the mutant messiah looks way too much like Jean Grey and if she's flaring the Phoenix Force, then that should be brought up too. Not to mention, Cyclops's father kind of died during Havok, Polaris, and Rachel's space excursion. So did Lilandra. None of that is brought up. It's a really fucked up omission and one there were plenty of chances to address. If that pisses you off too much, then you might as well stop reading this issue because it'll only piss you off more and I have enough people suing me at the moment.
Cyclops and Havok's chat only reinforces that everyone is taking sides. Some aren't as certain as others. Rogue is one of them. While she's wrestling with her decision, she pays Magneto a visit and thankfully it's not a booty call. He actually offers an insightful explanation as to why he's choosing to stay on Cyclops's team and it's not unreasonable. He sees Wolverine as too reckless. He believes Cyclops is a better leader and he's willing to follow him. But that's not enough for Rogue. She's struggling to see things from his point of view so in an effort to show that his balls are still barely contained by his old and wrinkly scrotum, he offers Rogue to drain him and not like your typical love interest either. She takes him up on his offer. However, it doesn't offer her the insight she was hoping for. In fact, it exposes a lingering crisis that followed them back from deep space.
Rogue explains to Cyclops and a number of X-men regulars that a psychic presence followed them through the wormhole they traveled through on their way back. Emma Frost actually confirms that another mutant signature made it through and that's cause for concern. You know, besides the massive space station of war-loving aliens. So Cyclops orders a scan of everyone in order to isolate the presence. But like every economic outlook since 2008, the results are negative. Then Dr. Nemesis shows that in addition to being an asshole, he also has an eye for the unusual. He takes a look at Korvus's sword, also known as the Phoenix Sword. As if the name alone wasn't cause for concern. Granted, the Phoenix Force left that sword during the War of Kings arc, but it's still enough to make Emma Frost soak her panties and not in a good way.
Cyclops and Emma confer with their science team. They explain that the Phoenix Sword was altered during their trip through the wormhole. Fragments of a mutant mind managed to latch onto it. Some speculate that it could be Jean Grey's mind, but let's face it. This is Marvel we're talking about here. They won't even begin to sew the seeds of Jean Grey possibly returning. Plus, Emma Frost would be much more of a bitch than usual if she knew that was the case. Instead, they conclude that the sword is like an anchor of sorts for a presence and it's too much of a pussy to let go. Or something to that effect.
So after enlisting help from Blindfold, the X-men put together a plan to seek out and confront this presence. Emma uses her second best asset after her tits to aid Blindfold in finding out more of this presence. It's all somewhat ambiguous, but not in the classic Matrix sort of way. The presence reads like something from Dante's Inferno or anyone that's ever passed out drunk in the middle of the day on Miami beach without sunscreen. There's a lot of burning. Apparently, this presence was about to die, but decided that death probably sucked ass and turned around. Except it got stuck halfway. It's more than a little fucked up, but given how death works in the Marvel universe I wouldn't be surprised if the Grim Reaper worked for the DMV.
Since the X-men aren't big in letting someone suffer in disjointed agony, Rogue offers to take the next illogical step. Since she detected the presence when she absorbed Magneto in a very non-sexual way, it stands to reason that she can gather more pieces if she absorbs everyone else who was on Gul Damar. Again, in a non-sexual way. Along the way Rogue even chats with Frenzy, who seems to have made up her mind. Despite being an epic hardass, she's going with Wolverine. She just doesn't care to be in a war zone anymore and she's too repulsed at the thought of Cyclops and Emma swapping body fluids. It gives Rogue something else to think about other than some disembodied presence.
After absorbing the pieces, she touches the Phoenix Sword last. Like anyone who has ever mixed Cialis with vodka, it has an unexpected side-effect. The last piece opened up a gateway with the sword that Rogue describes as completing a circuit. It opens a door to a world. It confirms that the Phoenix Sword has more uses other than just having a name that makes Emma shake in her overpriced shoes. It's actually a gateway, one that didn't quite make it from the other end of the wormhole on Gul Damar. And Rogue, being the ballsy woman she is, decides to take a look around despite the natural inclination to want to avoid a fiery gateway.
As soon as she enters, she's confronted by a a disembodied fiery spirit. Could it be? Is this fiery woman the missing pieces of Jean Grey? Has Marvel actually stopped fucking with fans on that subject? Of course not. That would make way too much sense. It turns out that figure is Ariel. Who is Ariel? She's just some D-list character that was killed off during Second Coming. It was horribly glossed over, even for a lesser known character. But it's indeed her and Rogue assures her that they'll get her out. Then she can start kicking the asses of everyone who pretty much brushed off her death while they mourned Nightcrawler.
So once again, another dead character not named Jean Grey is back yet she still utilizes Jean Grey's imagery. I want to be overly outraged about this, but I find myself just rolling my eyes and saying "Really Marvel? Seriously? You're butt-fucking THAT worn out corpse again?" But I digress. For an issue that has been mostly talk, it's a nice shot of action. Given that the last arc involved alien armies and a space station falling into a fucking sun, a smaller-scale conflict is somewhat welcome. It allows some of these mysteries regarding the Phoenix Sword and their little trip from Shi'ar country to develop. Even so, the imagery at the end makes you wonder if Marvel artists are banging whoever is running the makers of Xerox copiers.
While this issue had plenty of dramatic elements, it seemed to overlook some in favor of creating new ones. One of the biggest appeals this issue had going in was seeing the reactions from Havok, Rachel, and Polaris regarding all the changes since they've been gone. Well didn't get much reaction. The conversation with Havok and Cyclops was nice and all, but at no point was it ever shown how fucked up they may or may not have been after hearing what has happened to the X-men. We never even got to see their reactions to Hope Summers. Given how often Rachel complains about her mommy, that sounds like it would be a pretty big issue to overlook. Now Mike Carey could address it in the next issue, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.
I still enjoy Mike Carey's style and I'm trying to savor it for his last arc. This issue highlighted his ability to focus on certain character-based plots and further explore how others reacted to the events of Schism. The plot with Ariel was a nice bonus, but it still distracted from other looming plots that were essentially cast to the wayside. So while logistically speaking this comic is pretty solid, the sheer breadth of missed opportunities really brings it down. That's why I give X-men Legacy #259 a 3 out of 5. Mike Carey has one issue left to end his run on a high note. I hope he takes advantage of it the same way Charlie Sheen takes advantage of hookers who don't want to pay for their own drugs anymore. His run has been legendary on a great many levels, but there's one more left to overcome. Nuff said!