Sunday, January 8, 2012
X-men #23 - Internationally Imported Awesome
X-men Regenesis has been like a long overdue enema. It feels uncomfortable as hell at first, but when you see all the shit that it clears out you wonder how you ever let it get that fucked up. Every X-men comic has benefited from Regenesis in some way. Few have benefited as greatly as Victor Gischler's adjectiveless X-men. His series was once the forgotten, abused, and readily ignored step-child of the X-books. It wasn't a bad book by any stretch, but it wasn't going to steal your attention and hold it in a death grip either. It was mediocre at best and forgetable at worst. X-men Regenesis changed that and it didn't need to use a vampire gimmick this time.
Gischler's X-book has always been sound on paper, much like the first script for Battlefield Earth. It's supposed to show the X-men interacting with the greater Marvel universe. It's done this, albeit with mixed results that can't quite compare to the depravity of Battlefield Earth. But X-men Regenesis gave it a fresh lease on life by actually setting up a team with which to associate the book. Storm takes the lead as she probably should have done from the beginning. You just aren't as likely to fuck with someone who can literally shoot a lightning bolt up your ass. Others such as Psylocke, Colossus, Domino, Warpath, and vampire Jubilee joined as well. It's the kind of team that has a unique identity, but are still distinctly X-men. Plus, they have a vampire in their ranks for crying out loud. You can't have a good X-book without catering to the tween crowd now can you?
The first arc of Regenesis style X-men has been a surprising dose of thrills, political intrigue, and giant robots. All are perfect ingredients for an X-book or a Michael Bay film, minus the $200 million budget. It started with a black market deal for sentinels that ended up in the hands of a small oddly named country of Puternicstan, who with the lead of a Hillary Clinton wannabe unleash their stolen sentinels on the equally oddly named country of Symkaria. Since the X-men like to involve themselves in all things sentinel (or they just see fighting robots as a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon), they get involved. Along the way, they cross paths with War Machine. At first he tells the X-men to back off. Storm, being a freakin' queen last I checked, smiles and nods before giving him the finger once he turns his back. They eventually cross paths again and start working together, but by then it was too late. Puternicstan launched their attack and the first pages of X-men #23 show Storm's team leading the charge to take them down before robot wars become too trendy.
The one setting this trend is the Hillary Clinton-esque governor of Puternicstan I mentioned earlier. She's shown to have bigger balls than all the candidates in the GOP (which I know may not be saying much, but you get the picture). She's actually bold enough to launch an attack with robots on their neighbor. Some might call that ballsy, but even those with penises have a problem with that. While she watches the X-men fight her sentinel army, one of her own generals tries to stop her. Apparently having a penis doesn't automatically make you okay with starting a war. Unfortunately, the governor's vagina is that much more powerful because she has her own people contain the traitorous bastard. Somewhere out there, radical feminists are masturbating to this scene. And I have no desire to deprive them so I'll simply shut up for a moment.
Done ladies? Okay, back to the X-men. They're also sort of iffy on the whole launching a robot war thing. In the last issue Warpath and Psylocke caught up with Domino, who managed to avoid being dissected and sold to necrophiliacs. With her help they manage to find a low level scientist that they hope can help them find the off switch for these sentinels. Because scientists in the Marvel universe have more brain cells than those in the Matrix or the Terminator universe. They actually go out of their way to ensure that their killer robots have off switches. I can only assume that scientists in certain fictional universes get drunk on the job more often than I do and that's why simple shit like this slips their mind.
They find out that there is in fact a central control area where they can end this shit. Unfortunately, the governor of Puternicstan has brains in addition to her vagina. So that means she has alarms go off when someone starts busting their way into the master control room. She ends up sending her security forces to go slow them down. It may sound like your typical throw-your-henchmen-at-the-heroes-to-be-humiliated type command, but she also hasn't forgotten that time is on her side. She's already launched the sentinels. Domino, Warpath, and Psylocke have no hope of getting backup from their friends. On top of that the sentinels do land a few lucky blows, namely against War Machine since he doesn't fight sentinels as often in his spare time. SO that screws up the X-men's mojo. So that means they need to find that off switch and find it fast.
While they're fighting their way through, the battle with Storm, Colossus, Jubilee, and War Machine continues taking some unexpected turns. Despite War Machine's inexperience in fighting robot mutant killers, he's able to pick himself up and salvage at least some of his dignity. A battle against the X-men and sentinels is rarely fair, but in a year where the Detroit fucking Lions made the playoffs it's not unheard of that unexpected twists emerge. You could argue that Jubilee, who isn't even a mutant anymore, hot wiring a sentinel and crashing it into the ground is novel. It adds to a beautifully organized battle scene in the skies that's much nicer to drool over than the bland Eastern European government buildings that the others are fighting in. But this only sets up another twist.
It's worth reminding that Victor Gischler was the one that turned Jubilee into a vampire. Pretty much every story surrounding Jubilee's vampirism has come from Gischler. Now say what you will about the decision to do this. Yeah, maybe Marvel was trying to appeal to the Twilight crowd without getting too gay. But Jubilee's character has taken on some amazing twists since she became a blood sucker. Her being a vampire has led to far more novel stories than her just being a mutant. That's my opinion and if you disagree than we can agree to disagree and share a bong hit. Except you have to buy the weed.
That said, when Jubilee crashes the sentinel she encounters someone unexpected. He's not someone who has any part in the whole Puternicstan conflict. He claims he's been watching Jubilee, presumably in the same way horny teenage girls watch Robert Pattinson take his shirt off on the beach through a pair of binoculars (or maybe that's just my ex-girlfriend). Who is this guy? It's not clear, but he does resemble a character that was introduced in a previous issue of Gischler's adjectiveless X-men. He was a vampire that Xavier encountered back in the day when he wasn't mind wiping students and imprisoning Danger. He claims that he can show Jubilee a whole new world. I'm sure that's code for "I'm getting in your panties tonight and there's nothing you can do about it." But whatever the subtext, Jubilee completely disappears after this scene.
She couldn't have picked a worse time to disappear either. By now the sentinels are swarming around Storm, Colossus, and War Machine. The governor of Puternicstan is trying to one-up Hillary Clinton and hit the X-men with a healthy dose of overkill. They start landing some lucky blows. Yes, even mindless robot killers can get lucky every now and then and not in a very fetish sounding way. Even Storm gets herself in trouble when one of the sentinels grabs her. Yet all this time War Machine is contributing absolutely nothing. For a crossover book, he's really not affecting much. He's just adding some guns to the fight, but who needs guns when you've got a guy with Juggernaut's power and a chick with lightning? He's basically an afterthought that really can't change the tide of this battle. Suddenly that off switch is sounding very appealing.
While this battle is going on, the others have fought their way to the master control room. The Hillary Clinton wannabe tries to stop them, but then Domino knocks her out by making her kiss the butt of her gun (not a lesbian joke). She had Domino captured. She knocks her out. Sounds fair. Then Psylocke is able to get in touch with Madison Jefferies back on Utopia, who helps her decipher the systems that the fine folk of Peternicstan have used to hijack the sentinels. If it's programmed like typical Eastern European hardware, I can only assume that the ability to use Windows Vista without pulling your hair out renders you overqualified for the task. Jefferies helps Psylocke enter the shut-down code and that's what ends the battle. It sounds a bit overly easy, but if you just wanted the X-men to destroy all the robots then you're just greedy. Despite the words of Gordon Gecko, that's just not good in this context.
But it doesn't stop with shutting down the sentinels. Once all is calm, the comic flashes forward a bit. We find out that War Machine actually does prove useful in some areas. He calls in some favors from his buddies at NATO to clean up the mess in Puternicstan. They also arrest the Hillary Clinton wannabe and put her on trail. It's not the flashy kind of heroics that you would see in Uncanny X-men or Wolverine and the X-men. It's treated like a security threat with law, lawyers, and governments. It's more exciting than it sounds and it succeeds in setting the tone for this book. I suppose even political junkies that watch C-SPAN need a comic to call their own these days.
But the mission isn't over. In fact, the stage was already set for the next conflict in this series several pages back. When Storm returns to Utopia, she reports to Cyclops that they looked everywhere and couldn't find Jubilee. I'm pretty sure that her running off with a mysterious boy that may or may not be trying to get into her pants is a concern, but her own well-being is probably just as great a concern. And Storm makes it clear that she's not going to consider her mission a success until she finds Jubilee. She's just that kind of woman and if that guy actually does manage to screw with Jubilee, then I'm sure Storm will see to it that Mother Nature renders him a eunuch.
Some may find this ending annoying. I, for one, enjoyed it and not because I tend to read my comics while I'm drunk. This first arc succeeded as the first arcs of Uncanny X-men and Wolverine and the X-men succeeded. It firmly established the theme of the series. From the beginning of the arc to the end, Gischler made clear that this was a unique brand of X-men. They take on the kind of security threats that could upset the ever so fragile order that the X-men kind of need. But this series set itself apart. Before everything with Puternicstan was resolved, the conflict for the next arc was set into motion. And wouldn't you know it? Vampire Jubilee, the same Vampire Jubilee that Gischler created with his first arc, is at the center of it. So not only is the plot for this arc resolved, but the conflict for the next arc has already begun. It's like a preview within an ending. It may confuse some, but if it doesn't get you excited for the next issue then you're either too high or just a dick.
Compared to recent arcs of adjectiveless X-men, this was by far the best. It was an improvement on every level. It wasn't perfect. I have a hard time placing it on the same level as Wolverine and the X-men or Uncanny X-men because those two books have an established tradition of awesome. X-men still has the baggage of mediocrity to overcome. It definitely made strides here. It was complete on some levels. These books are supposed to utilize the greater Marvel universe and War Machine was kind of lost in this issue. But the theme was still in place and Gischler made it work through a solid mix of politics, social commentary, and robots blowing up. That's basically a metaphor for X-men as a whole.
I'm really glad that this series has improved. When I first heard about this series, I was excited at the prospect of the X-men having a book solely dedicated to utilizing other characters from the Marvel universe. But that excitement was overshadowed by the quality X-books that completely outshined it like Uncanny X-Force and Schism. There was really little reason to follow this book, but Regenesis has made the most compelling argument yet for X-men fans to add this to their pull list. It has Storm leading the X-men, other Marvel heroes joining them, and the potential for more killer robots. Seriously, what more do you need? That's why I give X-men #23 a 4.5. It's back to basics with X-men. They fight killer robots and save misguided teenagers. So what if one of them is a vampire now? She's basically the best blood-sucker on the market until the next season of True Blood begins. Nuff said!