Saturday, January 21, 2012
Generation Hope #15 - Tense Awesome
I don't claim to be completely level-headed in my reviews. I don't claim to be sober either. I understand that I have a number of pet peeves in comics that rub me in ways that you don't want an Asian transvestite masseuse to do while blindfolded. But despite these personal grudges, I try to be objective with every book I review. A little brutal honesty helps as well. When a book has minor flaws, I'm willing to take an extra shot of bourbon and overlook it. But when that flaw is major, an entire mountain of cocaine isn't enough to make me ignore it. Consider this a disclaimer of sorts because I've ranted on certain flaws in the X-books before. Some of you may be sick to death of them. To those people I would say you need to drink more. For everyone else, I ask that you keep this in mind as I review Generation Hope #15.
Generation Hope is a series that has had some wild variations. From Kieron Gillen to James Asmus, this book has been cock-bustingly awesome at times and ass-clenchingly horrible at others. In between there have been WTF moments on top of "Holy shit, this is so amazing that I need to inject this book into my veins!" This series is built around some pretty novel concepts that have helped give this book a truly unique feel. The events of Schism helped shape that feel into something even more compelling. James Asmus, taking over for Kieron Gillen, did a great job with his first arc. He had Jean-I mean Hope (you really expect me to still tell them apart?) and her realigned team of Lights venture to Pakistan where they rescued an amnesic Sebastian Shaw. They don't know the man's history or that Emma Frost basically lied to everyone about what he did to him in the Quarentine arc. So when they brought him back to Utopia, the reaction from Cyclops was as overblown as expected. It made Generation Hope #15 all the more intriguing so of course I had a number of pre-rolled joints made up for this issue.
It begins right where the previous book ended, making for the kind of perfect continuity that makes comic fans all warm and fuzzy inside. First, there's a backstory page for readers who don't know the kind of douche-bag that Sebastian Shaw is. Then when the next scene involves Cyclops blasting him and getting Psylocke and Danger to contain him, you don't feel too bad about it. This is, after all, the asshole that made Cyclops's wife go Dark Phoenix and trigger decades of frustration for Jean Grey fans. In that sense Shaw is lucky that Cyclops doesn't order that Shaw's testicles are ripped out through his eye sockets.
Jean Gr-I mean Hope (shit, this is hard) and her Lights are understandably confused and so is Shaw. If you'll recall, Shaw has no memory and the Lights are still new to the game. They don't know what a douche-bag Shaw has been. So Je-I mean Hope (almost had it!) storms off with Cyclops and Emma for a badly needed explanation, leaving the Lights to scratch their heads in frustration at what they just experienced. It can't be too uplifting. They go out of their way to save someone they thought was in trouble and they return only to find out they brought back someone that the X-men hoped was lying dead in a ditch. It leads to some pretty tense moments. Velocidad reminds his teammates that every time he uses his powers, he ages a bit. And when he uses them just to save some guy the X-men hate, that's kind of a big waste. It shows that the Lights may or may not be on board with the X-men's plan. The only one who seems content with this situation is Kenji and Martha Johannsen, who he gave a new body in the last issue. They're already coddling with the kind of creepy chemistry that makes for great anime porn. It may sound disturbing, but it has the kind of charm that will make you smile and throw up at the same time.
We go from one tense moment to one that should be a million times worse. Sebastian Shaw shouldn't be alive. He shouldn't even be on Utopia. It was Emma Frost who mind-wiped him and dumped him in the middle of nowhere. It was also Emma Frost who flat out lied to Cyclops in the Quarantine arc about what she was doing with this. This in and of itself wouldn't be too egregious. She's been known to lie before, but this came after the whole Confession bullshit during Utopia where they agreed to have no more secrets. Well here's a big fucking secret that is a serious threat to both Hope and their partnership with Namor, who is working under the assumption that Emma killed Shaw for him. But what does Cyclops do? He just says "All right." No really, that's it. That's all he fucking says when his big-breasted girlfriend tells him that she lied to him and went behind his back.
Here's where those pet peeves I mentioned earlier come in. I've always cried bullshit when Cyclops and Emma's relationship basically gets a free pass when this shit would have been overblown for any other couple. Emma Frost flat out lied to Cyclops after promising she wouldn't. This usually causes strain in a relationship, both fictional and in real life. But it doesn't amount to jack shit here. They just brush it off and go back to being a walking porno. And I say that's fucking bullshit. If this happened with Cyclops and Jean Grey, every writer at Marvel would use it as a way to fuck up their relationship. But Cyclops and Emma? A couple that has the depth of an episode of Two and a Half Men? Fuck no! There's having a double standard and then there's just being an arrogant dick about it. Guess which one Asmus and Marvel uses here? I'll give you a hint. Paris Hilton loves to suck it when a night-vision camera is rolling.
The potential for drama in Cyclops and Emma's relationship is completely forgotten so they can argue with Hope (happy now?). As far as she's concerned, they just rescued someone who had their mind wiped. Whoever he was before isn't who he is now. It's not an unreasonable assumption, if of course you're an arrogant teenage girl that doesn't know why she shouldn't trust creepy men that claim to have no memory. Cyclops tries to calmly explain to Hope that Shaw is an asshole, but despite that or perhaps because of it Hope says she trusts the man. She even calls Cyclops out for having a shitty standard because this guy boned his girlfriend. It's a real dick move and Emma Frosts responds by smacking her. It's by far the best thing Emma Frost did since getting a boob job. Given how much of a bitch Hope has become lately, she more than deserved it.
While the bullshit surrounding Cyclops, Emma, and Hope is unfolding, another almost equally shitty situation is arising with the Lights. They're still standing around confused at why everyone is so pissed that they brought Sebastian freakin' Shaw to their shores. Then out of nowhere and for no reason they're confronted by some Utopia residents that used to be part of the Mutant Liberation Front. They really don't think highly of the Lights and why should they? They're a bunch of teenagers who just got their powers and because of their connection to Hope Summers, they get all of Cyclops's attention. It's not totally unreasonable, but the fact they're doing this now is really fucked up timing. Too fucked up for it not to be contrived. Laurie doesn't help by being a bitch herself so in addition to contrived timing we get a contrive fight.
It's every bit as random as it sounds. A fight breaks out between the Lights and the MLF for no other reason than to throw some action into this book. To Asmus's credit, the fight is well-organized. It has some pretty nice moments like Kenji using that Akira knock-off form of his along with Martha to show the MLF what a Japanese school girl feels like in tentacle porn. It's not just punching, kicking, and shooting. It is what it is, a mindless spectacle that helps distract from the bullshit happening in another scene. Unfortunately, it isn't distracting enough.
When Emma senses this, she interrupts their little conversation that involves heavy bitch-slapping to inform Hope that her ability to manage others has more room for improvement than downtown Detroit. So how can she really hope to manage an asshole like Sebastian fucking Shaw? Well being the arrogant bitch that she is, Hope reminds Cyclops and her Lights that she has a very strong hold on them. This hold has been hinted at before, but Hope has never flexed it like this. Not only is it a dick move, it has a very Dark Phoenix feel to it. She essentially uses this hold to remind the Lights that she's the pimp and they're her hoes and if they fall out of line, she is well within her right to fuck with them.
This is one moment that is actually really compelling in this comic. To this point, the mysterious influence Hope has over her Lights really hasn't been explored. Moreover, it hasn't taken a dark turn like this yet. When it happens here, you can't help but wonder why this didn't happen sooner. Then again, the timing may be perfect. Hope is becoming more of a brat just in time for Avengers vs. X-men as it looms over the horizon. If she's this much an asshole by the time the Phoenix arrives, then the X-men and Avengers have that much more to fight about.
Hope's little demonstration ends up making her point. Her Lights tuck their tails between their legs and run off to ponder the collapse of their collective scrotum. In addition, Cyclops caves to her wishes. Most likely because he doesn't want to upset the "City in Arizona" as he calls it. He agrees to let Hope work with Sebastian Shaw. He makes sure she reads up on his history of being a dick beforehand, but given the arrogance Hope showed earlier I doubt that'll change her mind. In addition, she has other concerns within her own team. Apparently, they don't like this influence she has over them. Kenji, being the one who almost destroyed a whole fucking city in the first arc of this series, is especially pissed and makes it clear that he's more than a little inclined to fuck up in ways that will make Emma give him all her panties.
This issue had a lot of promise. After the end of the last issue, Generation Hope #15 had a chance to really impact the dynamics of other X-books like Uncanny X-men. Sadly, that promise was never fully realized. It's like a porn star that couldn't get the boob job she wanted. It's tragic and frustrating. It's not enough that this issue once again showed that Marvel is all too willing to gloss over glaring inconsistencies in the Cyclops/Emma relationship. But meaningless fights with characters that haven't so much as taken a minor shit in other comics just make too much of this issue feel like an excuse of sorts. Hope Summers and Emma Frost get a pass while Shaw suddenly becomes a major player for reasons that even a damaged teenage girl should understand are fucked up. This is the first X-men Regenesis book that has left me very disappointed and there's no reason it had to be this way.
I won't go so far as to say it's all terrible. James Asmus did utilize other elements in this issue that helped make up for some of the flaws (to a point). The new dynamic with Kenji and Martha was disturbingly charming. And seeing Emma Frost slap Hope Summers like the bratty bitch she's become was more than enough reason to justify purchasing this comic. Moreover, Hope's hold on her Lights as she demonstrated in a very Phoenix-ish sort of way added more hints as to what may be coming with Avengers vs. X-men. So this comic did contribute to the larger themes of the X-books that are developing in other titles. It's just unfortunate that it didn't do more with what it had to work with. It's like having a boner and no lube.
This issue wasn't the worst installment of Generation Hope to date. It certainly wasn't the best either. It has some elements that make it annoyingly asinine. It has others that make it undeniably appealing. The balance between the two is hard to really define. I can't really say that one makes up for the other. It's like one part is a shot of meth while the other is a shot of heroin. They each have the opposite effects, but it's balanced out in a way that leaves you confused and your brain pretty fucked up. So in light of this split I'm giving Generation Hope #15 a 2.5 out of 5. It could have been so awesome. Instead, the chocolate is mixed in with the shit to a point where it's hard to make sense of either. Nuff said!