Saturday, February 4, 2012

Uncanny X-men #6 - Let's Talk About Awesome

There are people out there that think comics aren't a legitimate form of literary art. If ever you cross paths with these people, I encourage you to push them down a flight of stairs and then step on their nuts on the way down. Just because comics don't contain pages upon pages of words arranged into jumbled boxes of text doesn't mean there isn't real literary gold involved. Hell, comics have more shit going for it because it doesn't just use boxes of text. It uses actual pictures so that writers don't have to spend two pages describing the underwear that some overly proper bimbo is wearing while she's swooning over a guy with eight-pack abs and ten-inch dick. I'd much rather see a picture of beautiful women in spandex costumes than try to decipher shitty writing.

That said, all the pretty art and breast depictions in the world can't save a shitty comic from being shitty. Yes, even boobs have their limit. Great comics also have great writing. Great writing requires great writers. I know that sounds obvious, but great writers for comics are harder to come by than a sober co-ed at a frat house party. Kieron Gillen has become one of those rare finds for Marvel. While previous writers could tell a story, Kieron Gillen has shown genuine talent at bringing those stories to life with his words. He's shown it in both Generation Hope and Uncanny X-men. The epic battles and shit that blows up is just bonus. Plus, he even has a slick British accent that can soak the panties of any woman that fantasizes about James Bond. So there's that too. Uncanny X-men has benefited from his talent since he took over. It's benefited even more since he took the events of Uncanny X-Force and mixed them with that of Uncanny X-men.

This has forged the current Tabula Rasa arc. The X-men's Extinction Team is caught up in the miniature evolutionary petri dish that Arcangel used to essentially TIVO hundreds of millions of years of evolution. In the last issue they ventured inside to rescue some people who were stupid enough to take a hike in this world. They ended up finding not only an exotic world, but an exotic race of creatures that worshiped Arcangel as a god. Now that the TIVO isn't fast forwarding anymore, they're a little fucked up. And as it turns out, there were competing gods within this tiny realm. It's not unlike modern day Israel and Palestine. Except the god the X-men have to deal with here is big ass suit of metal with some big ass guns. Oh yeah, and it's the kind of metal that Magneto can't crush so he and Psylocke (who is subbing for the one-armed Emma Frost) have to avoid playing martyr. One of the innocent little creatures isn't so lucky. While this is going on, Gillen is actually narrating from this creature's perspective. It's not as compelling as the Phalanx bit he did a few issues ago, but it's a nice change.

Psylocke tries to call on Cyclops for backup, but unfortunately he was swallowed and pooped out by Tabula Rasa in the last issue so while he's not dead he probably wish he was. It also means he's in no condition to assist her and Magneto. Tabula Rasa is about as welcoming to strangers as a Victoria's Secret in Saudi Arabia because the rest of the team is quickly occupied. Colossus and Illyana have to play extras in a Jurassic Park remake while Hope and Namor have to play extras in an Abyss remake. It's remakes abound, even if there isn't much depth to it. Given that Colossus and Illyana weren't distracted at the end of the last issue, it's a little contrived for them to get attacked just as Psylocke and Magneto are facing down an Iron Man knock-off who I'm guessing has a very small penis. Yet Storm and Danger aren't occupied so they are able to come to their aid, so it's not as convenient as it could have been.

But what about Cyclops? What happens to a guy after a world literally poops him out into the middle of nowhere? Well it actually ends up being helpful in the same way getting your dick stuck in a toaster helps you make friends with EMTs. After being partially digested, he's taken to a lair by a creature that looks like it lost one too many fights with Predator. That lair contains the missing people who were stupid enough to venture inside Tabula Rasa in the first place. It almost makes you wish they were the ones pooped out by a world, but it's not about to turn into another shitty Aliens vs. Predator bit. While the creature did capture the overly curious humans, it also protected them and not because it was preparing to eat/mate with them. It's not clear what it really wants until it starts English. Okay, it's shitty English that only a drunk George W. Bush could muster, but English none-the-less.

Back with Magneto and Psylocke, the battle against the Iron man knock-off continues. It's been a bit lopsided to this point since Magneto can't use his powers to crush this thing like a beer can. But in a move that may or may not be his way of getting into Psylocke's panties, he puts that helmet of his to better use aside from being a shitty fashion statement. In a spectacle that makes Magneto just a little bit more than an old man with too much Viagra in his diet, he turns his helmet into a barrage of shrapnel. It doesn't completely stop the Iron Man rip-off, but it does make the fight seem a little less lopsided. That and I think it did earn him some points with Psylocke because when it tried to blast them again, she pushed him out of the way. In comics, that's the same as saying "Want to go back to my place and see how I got straight As with all my male teachers?"

Magneto's attack forces the Iron Man ripoff to step up it's attack and go in for the kill. This would be more than appropriate if it hadn't wasted so much time, allowing both Danger and Storm to catch up to the battle. To this point Danger has been providing surveillance by turning herself into a satellite. But she also showed that a satellite can also doubt as a giant dick from space capable of badly fucking anyone and anything from sub-orbital space. When she arrives on the scene, the overcompensating robot gets whatever counts as it's asshole plowed and not in a way that makes for awesome gay porn. If that isn't enough to shrivel it's scrotum, Storms hows up as well and throws in several million volts of lightning. So if this thing was really a god to the creatures on this world, then I think it's safe to say they just pulled a Richard Dawkins on it's ass. That'll leave only the alien equivalent of creationists and you know they aren't going to be smart enough to pose a threat.

They've taken down the killer robot/demigod. One of the biggest threats in this world that God was drunk when he created is neutralized for now. It's a great time to reunite and regroup. Unfortunately, the others are still occupied and for reasons that feel more like an "my dog took a shit on my computer and destroyed my homework" type excuse. Apparently while the battle against the robot wannabe god was unfolding, Colossus's battle against the local wildlife went bad and they took panel...with no other details given. Now normally Gillen is really good about moving the plot along in a believable, coherent way. He usually doesn't resort to tricks that keep certain characters out of the way unless it's developed. This shit just seems to come out of nowhere. While it looks awesome when Colossus goes all Juggernaut, it feels like an overly contrived reason to keep him from meeting up with the others.

Normally, I'm willing to overlook one such misstep. Then we revisit the underwater battle with Namor and Hope. Like the battle with Colossus and Illyana, it panel...with no other details given. Starting to see a pattern? But it's not just those lost details that make this scene feel glossed over. Namor spends two pages essentially explaining to the inexperienced Hope that knows only kicking ass and ripping off Jean Grey that the underwater creatures around them aren't enemies. They think they're under attack because of all the shit that's been going on with Tabula Rasa's timestream getting all fucked up. While kicking their asses is all well and good, it probably would serve them better if they found a way to make them allies.

This tactic is all well and good if not for the long-winded explanation. I get that Gillen is good with words and like a man with a large penis, likes to show it off. But words aren't enough here. Aside from the talking, all Hope and Namor do is swim. They aren't fighting anything. Nothing seems to be stalking them either. It's just swimming and talking. Too much talking. It's a more than a slight shift from the battle against the robot demigod earlier. It's way longer than it needs to be.

It doesn't stop there either. Back with Psylocke, Magneto, Storm, and Danger, they catch up with Cyclops who brings with him some answers in the form of the same creature that abducted him. This creature, who learned English in a way makes you want to slap the clerk at 7-11 who can't figure out which brand of cigarettes you want, explains to the X-men the kind of bullshit they're up against. He didn't capture those people for kicks. He did it to study them and not with anal probing thankfully. Once he was reasonably sure that humans were sentient (although he admits he's not convinced), he explains what happened to his world.

It's another long winded explanation that takes up multiple pages. The creature calls himself Savage and his race is called Apex. Like humans, they considered themselves the top species of Tabula Rasa. Also like humans, they were energy hogs. They were smart enough to understand that at some point a self-contained world like this won't be able to keep it's equivalent of iphones and vibrators working. So they needed an alternative. Savage's friend (aka the guy in the Iron Man suit), decided it was a good idea to build a big ass suit of armor and look for energy outside Tabula Rasa. Savage's idea was to put themselves in stasis until Tabula Rasa's fucked up timeflow stabilized. That's the same as suggesting to someone that they knock themselves out until someone comes up with a viable alternative to fossil fuels. It's taken about as seriously as Ryan Secrest. While Savage went with his stasis idea, his buddy built the suit. Essentially, it boiled down to people not being able to come together to find a solution to an energy crisis. If these guys can't do it with Celestial technology, what hope is there for humanity? Fuck, I need some weed.

The long winded explanation continues. When Savage emerged, he found out that the Apex eventually caved to his idea and made a stasis field to wait out the coming temporal ass raping. It ended up failing. Tabula Rasa simply used them to feed the many other creatures. So when Savage's buddy returned after being stuck in temporal stasis as well, he was understandably pissed to find that his whole civilization was fucked. Naturally, he wants it back and doesn't care if he fucks the entire world when he does it. It's a lot of talking and not much else, but it does explain what they're up against and it shows that a giant robot demigod isn't just compensating for a small penis. It wants to rebuild it's civilization and is okay with blowing shit up in the process. It's understandable and shouldn't take several pages to explain.

I like Kieron Gillen's writing. I really do. He actually puts some effort into his words when he writes. That goes a long way with comics and for much of his run, it's been one of his strengths. However, in this issue he overdid it. There was a lot of talking, but not much was said. Maybe that's just the weed typing this shit for me, but between the narrations from Savage and Namor's little exposition it just seemed like wasted words. It's like driving your car down the driveway just to pick up the fucking mail. It caused the comic to really drag and spent way too much time just explaining shit rather than actually doing it.

Now not all these words were meaningless. They did fill in some of the blanks as to what is going on with Tabula Rasa and what it is the Extinction Team is up against. Savage and his race have their own history and in this issue, we got just a brief taste of how vast that history really is. The problem is it's not as compelling as it could have been. Too much was given all at once. There wasn't enough mystery left behind to be revealed later. Now maybe that's because this arc isn't long enough and Gillen is trying to squeeze too much in, but it simply doesn't work as well usual. Plus, scenes with Namor and Hope seemed glossed over. So did Illyana's disappearance with Colossus. Gillen just told the story. He didn't really show it. Think of it this way. Would you rather have a beautiful woman describe her tits or actually show them to you?

This isn't a bad comic. It has plenty of action as well as a pretty elaborate story that's worth following. It just drags too much in some areas while not expanding in others. While it leaves the issue feeling ab it flat, it doesn't mean the whole arc is brought down. Kieron Gillen has plenty of ways to make the next issue as awesome as it needs to be. Until then, this issue is a textbook case of filler. So for a final score, I give Uncanny X-men #6 a 3.5 out of 5. There's a decent story here and Kieron Gillen is great at telling it. It just hasn't come together yet. Once again, I'll compare it to tits. The hot stripper is still on stage. She hasn't taken her bra off yet and she's been teasing it way longer than any decent stripper should. But you can tell there's something behind that bra worth seeing and you can't help but stare in anticipation. I think I've made my point. Nuff said!