Thursday, February 16, 2012
Uncanny X-men #7 - Evolutionary Conflicts (of Awesome)
The most I know about evolutionary biology and anthropology extends to how it explains my liver function and how I an use this knowledge to process more booze. It hasn't helped me win any additional beer pong matches that I wouldn't have already won or helped me avoid taking a shit in the kitchen sink, but at times it has helped me understand certain elements of the X-men comics. You don't need to be Richard Dawkins to appreciate the role evolution plays with the X-men. You can be a middle school dropout and still understand that if you give nature enough time, it's going to evolve some pretty awesome shit. So when you create a little pocket of land where evolution has millions of years and unlimited energy akin to Game Genie cheat codes, it's going to cause the kind of shit that only Cyclops's Extinction team is equipped to deal with.
This is the essence of Tabula Rasa, the pocket world created in the Dark Angel Saga where Arcangel got the spirit of Charles Darwin shit faced and had him go crazy on a world where God's image just doesn't apply. When the Dark Angel Saga ended, Tabula Rasa remained and that fancy time bubble that allowed millions of years to pass in the same time frame as a Seinfeld rerun collapsed. This led all that fancy life to go ape-shit and abduct some overly curious humans, which prompted the Extinction Team to explore this area that's within God's blind spot and uncover it's secrets.
The previous issue spent a good deal of time uncovering those secrets while not showing much action. This was okay to a point because it explained the source of that Iron Man wannabe that showed up a few issues ago and introduced the Apex, the advanced race of intelligent humanoid creatures that look like the Predator if it were shaved and neutered. Most died when the time bubble collapsed and one of the remaining Apex met up with the X-men to explain what they're up against. Apparently, the other remaining survivor had too much free time and when he/she/it found out that the entire Apex civilization was gone, he/she/it (I'll just say he because I don't see any breasts) responded in the healthiest way possible...by creating a massive suit of death fueled by Celestial energy. I guess they didn't evolve some form of booze on Tabula Rasa.
Uncanny X-men #7 picks up after the X-men have had time to process this threat and formulate a plan that doesn't involve shitting their pants. It doesn't help that their friend, who humbly calls himself Good Apex, is such a douche-bag. He probably would have called himself Longrod Von Ironcock (assuming he has something akin to a penis) if possible. But he settles for something basic because he doesn't think non-Apex creatures can appreciate his race. So I guess evolution doesn't have a mechanism for keeping sentient life from becoming douche-bags. At least this so called Good Apex leads them to a mountain where Celestial energy is in the process of being released by his Bad Apex counterpart. Only Storm, Cyclops, Magneto, and Psylocke are on the front line. Hope, Namor, Colossus, and Illyana are busy and we don't hear from them in the entire comic. For a series that's usually pretty balanced, that's not a good sign.
You know what also isn't a good sign? More talking after the last issue was full of extended explanations about Tabula Rasa, the creatures in it, and how sentient beings that have the skin texture of elephant shit became the dominant species in this mini-world. To be fair, Kieron Gillen does link up some of the details in the previous issue with this issue. In the last issue, Good Apex explained how his people set up shop in a temple fueled by Celestial energy to keep them in a deep sleep that turned into just your typical death sleep. In this issue the X-men visit said temple and find out that Bad Apex didn't just set up shop in the unofficial tomb of the Apex, he set up shop in a monument containing all the accomplishments of his civilization. So it's part museum and part crypt. It's fitting yet still a little bit creepy.
As they journey through this creepy temple, there's more talking about the Apex and no real action. It's just walking and talking. Basically Lord of the Rings without the big ass battle scenes. However, it does help Kieron Gillen's dialog is smooth and easy to follow. It makes the excessive talking that much more bearable, but eventually they do reach their destination. The X-men and Good Apex find Bad Apex in the middle of what must be his 18th nervous breakdown. He's standing in a bed of busted up butterflies/robots/shit that doesn't have a word for it yet. It essentially is a metaphor for how fucked his world is and much it pisses him off. In this lament he calls Good Apex "unwife." Now I'm not sure what this term entails, but I'm pretty sure it would make for awesome fetish porn and/or a kick-ass episode of Jerry Springer.
Zoophiliac feelings aside, Bad Apex proves he's true to his title when he uses his Iron Man-eqsue suit to attack the X-men. So we finally get some action, but it isn't much. Bad Apex just fires a missile that blows up and makes everyone wish they were born without a head for a brief moment. It's not unlike waking up the next morning after six bottles of tequila. It's not too fair a fight from the onset. Magneto, usually adept at diverting missiles with his powers, wasn't too effective because Bad Apex apparently had a few spare million years to perfect technology that overcame simple magnetism. It's a little cheap, but that's the power of evolution I guess.
At this point when we finally get some action, the impact really isn't all that great. There was a lot of talking in this and the last issue that set up this confrontation, yet not much happened as a result. The lack of involvement from Hope, Namor, Illyana, or Colossus doesn't help either. We don't know what's going on or if they're aware of any of the shit that's taking Celestial energy and using it as toilet paper. Usually, Gillen is able to make his work pretty coherent when balancing multiple plots and characters. This is the first time where his story is getting narrow. It's not too egregious, but given the high standards that he himself set it is pretty disappointing.
The battle isn't too basic though. Despite the apparent ease with which Bad Apex took down the X-men, Psylocke mixes it up a bit by doing some ninja-style sneak attacks. It always helps that she's wearing a skin-tight uniform that shows off her ass while she's jamming a katana into an robot/disturbed sentient creature. Bad Apex still manages to shake the attack off as well as a follow-up shot from Cyclops. He boasts along the way as you would expect anyone who enjoys fucking with superheroes. So even with millions of years of evolution, making stupid quips and sounding like a pompous ass can't be naturally selected out of existence. It gives me little hope for the future of the human race.
Whereas the X-men are attempting and failing with the direct approach, Good Apex is trying something a little more subtle. He sneaks past his unwife (seriously, Gillen should copyright that shit) and tries to get to the Celestial energy that's fueling this shit. At this point Danger actually shows that she's not only sexy in a way that only Japanese fetish porn can articulate, she's useful because she creates a space suit for Good Apex to brave the danger. Despite being an arrogant creature, Good Apex is impressed and maybe a little turned on. I can't tell if these creatures get boners. But whatever the case, he tries to find the Celestial off switch. Bad Apex, having had enough fun roughing up the X-men, goes after him and attacks. I'm not sure if this counts as domestic or spousal abuse, but it has explosions so it's no worse than my uncle's third marriage.
The action definitely ramps up here because it has more of an emotional element. Good Apex clearly cares about Bad Apex and is trying to stop him from making a mistake that only a brain-damaged, tramatized being with a god-machine would make. He manages to vent a good deal of the Celestial energy. As expected, Bad Apex doesn't appreciate this and lashes out in a way that can only be compared to the way my ex-girlfriend used to attack me when I sold her jewelry for blow. Bad Apex probably would have become the Apex equivalent of OJ Simpson, but then Storm rejoined the battle and threw some lightning into the mix. That tends to help quell deranged ex-spouses (to a point).
In addition to the lightning, Storm rightfully criticizes in a rather colorful way that Bad Apex was shitting on the legacy of his entire civilization. This doesn't seem to bother Bad Apex, but since Good Apex drained all the Celestial energy he can't exactly continue with his policy of burning an entire world to a crisp. So after shaking off Storm's little lecture, Bad Apex and his pet robot disappears to regroup. It's not a typical bad-guy-getting-away type scenario. It's more a bad-guy-calling-timeout-so-he-can-find-another-way-to-fuck-with-them type scenario. It's the kind of ending that doesn't make for much closure. It actually makes the overall arc feel like it's dragging now. All we know is that Bad Apex is going to try something equally or more fucked up that will probably turn Tabula Rasa into a pile of dog shit. I want to get excited about it, but I'm just not feeling aroused by dog shit anymore.
After the previous issue, I was working under the assumption that the plots that were set up would be appropriately developed and/or blown up in this issue. There were a few explosions. There was some fighting as well. But for the most part, it was just more talking and more setup like the last issue. Like I said in my review of Uncanny X-men #6, I don't mind it when Kieron Gillen flexes his literary muscle. It's like a guy with a big dick or a woman with big tits. If you've got it, flaunt it. But like big dicks and big tits, flaunting can be distracting and in this issue there just wasn't enough substance to go along with the flaunting. It was like a rum and coke without the rum.
That's not to say there wasn't some good development here. Not only did we get some insight into the whole unwife concept for the Apex, but we also developed a new understanding for what Bad Apex is doing. This is a creature that woke up, found out that the entire Apex civilization had gone to shit, and there was nothing that could be done to save it. So Bad Apex is doing what is akin to giving Iran an H-bomb in the Marvel Universe, using Celestial energy to assemble the kind of tools of destruction that makes God wish he hadn't rested on the seventh day because it makes him look lazy. The problem is it's just not coupled with enough emotion. We know Bad Apex is pissed and Good Apex is trying to stop this overblown hissy fit. There's just not enough substance to make the reader really give a damn about where Bad Apex is coming from or enough action to make the reader overlook it.
Not a whole lot was built up here, but Kieron Gillen did succeed in moving the story forward. He's very descriptive on what the threat to Tabula Rasa is and goes out of his way to develop the Apex, but doesn't really do much for the X-men. It's still good, but it feels like too much is missing and too much ink was wasted. Now Kieron Gillen has earned a lot of leeway with the quality of his work in Uncanny X-men so I can't dock him too much for his work in this issue. But I can't give this issue the praise I want. As such, I give Uncanny X-men #7 a 3 out of 5. Two issues have been spent building up this Tabula Rasa story. That's about half an issue too long. With all this setup, I'm hoping that the next issue will make me shit out my brains and barf up my colon. Nuff said!