Thursday, February 2, 2012

X-Sanction #3 - Fate Catching Up With Awesome

What do you say about a guy who picks a fight with a group of other guys who are bigger, stronger, healthier, better looking, and more equipped than him? The first thing that comes to mind is "What the fuck did that guy drink and where can I get some?" The second is "Oh, Jeph Loeb released another issue of X-Sanction and I don't have my weed. Fuck me with the carcass of a wiener dog." No one will ever mistake a Jeph Loeb comics for a comic equivalent to Shakespeare. The man doesn't make his mark with snappy dialog. He does it with stories that are hard-hitting, destructive, and emotional. When it's done wrong, it makes you envy the blind and the brain-dead. When he does this right, his comics are like Jenna Jameson porn to all your senses. X-Sanction has been an example of the latter and the timing couldn't be better.

Marvel has gone to great lengths to soak the panties of every Marvel fan in the world with their upcoming Avengers vs. X-men event. The stage is set for the most epic of dick-measuring contests. But before either side unzips their pants, the stage has to be set. And who better to do that than Cable? He's the kind of guy who doesn't need to be drunk to take on another bunch of guys that are bigger, stronger, and less infected with the techno-organic virus. He only needs to knowledge that the Avengers do something to Hope that makes her unable to save the world from the Phoenix Force.

That's all the excuse he needs to travel back from the future, lure the Avengers into a trap, and lock them in one of Magneto's old containment chairs that look like something an evil Stephen Hawkings would use. He spent the first two issues taking down Captain America and Iron Man. He had a good plan against them and was able to beat them, despite taking more licks than anyone infected with a techno-organic virus should allow. That plan didn't exactly extend to Red Hulk. This is where even a dedicated adopted father has his limits and it doesn't help that he now looks like a terminator reject.

But X-Sanction #3 shows that while Cable has a knack for screwing himself over, he's not without a Plan B. In the first issue of X-Sanction, it was revealed that Cable survived Second Coming and was sent into the future. It's a future that sucked ass, but he was able to meet up with his old buddy Blaquesmith. He was the one that told him he needed to hunt down the Avengers. He was the one that told him they fucked with his daughter in a non-R. Kelly sort of way. Knowing a guy his age with a techno-organic virus had his work cut out for him, it turns out Blaquesmith came back with him and arrives just in time to stab Red Hulk a new one before he puts a giant bullet in Cable's head. Now where was he before when Iron Man was kicking his ass? Presumably, he's taking a moment to enjoy the golden age of internet porn. But still, his entry is a bit convenient but there's a reason for that and it isn't apparent now so just enjoy the sight of Red Hulk getting stabbed.

It's still an unfair fight. Blaquesmith and Cable are essentially like pitting Betty White and Clay Akins against Mike Tyson. They're only tactic is to stay in one piece long enough to come up with a plan. But this overmatched battle isn't enough for Loeb if you can believe that. The last two issues have left some burning questions, namely how the fuck did Cable put together a scheme like this to take on the Avengers? Well he finally answers that with another flashback, continuing a similar theme set in previous issues. In these flashbacks we find out that Blaquesmith was the one that supplied Cable with those fancy containment chairs. He even supplied him with that fancy Iron Man suit that he used to take down Iron man in the previous issue. It even answers a more fundemental question. How the fuck did he get back to the past anyways? Simple. Blaquesmith had Dr. Doom's time machine.

To some, it sounds overly convenient. However, in this instance it actually adds some coherence to the story. Blaquesmith is a known time traveler and not known for his ballsy confrontations. So even if he had this gear, he wouldn't have the scrotal strength to take on the Avengers. But when Cable showed up, he now has both the manpower and the ballsiness to take on this mission. In other comics written by Jeph Loeb, these kinds of details often get overlooked. This time, they fit more nicely than a thong on Megan Fox's ass.

But clearing up details of the past is only a minor part to the plot. The meat of the conflict is the hulking red monster currently looking to beat the shit out of Cable and his time traveling, ass clenchingly ugly friend. All Blaquesmith can do is run around and try not to get shot. That doesn't last too long, but before Red Hulk can put a giant bullet in that deformed skull he calls a head Cable manages a psychic attack on his mind. This is quite a feat given that the past two issues have made it painfully clear that he's very sick. The techno-organic virus has limited his body and his powers. So a psychic attack is no easy feat, but it does give him the time he needs to gather himself, get his gun, and use Red Hulk for target practice.

That tactic lasts about as long as a chicken fried steak on John Goodman's dinner plate. After shaking off the bullets as only the Hulk can, Red Hulk comes storming back at Cable with a fucking anchor. To hell with a shield or a suit of iron. All Red Hulk needs is an anchor and Cable is in deep shit. It's painfully clear here that Red Hulk is a Jeph Loeb creation because he looks pretty badass here, much more so than Iron Man or Captain America did in previous issues. He lays it on Cable like PETA at a slaughterhouse. It gets to a point where it's pretty lopsided. Between the techno-organic virus and not having a containment chair big enough to hold Red Hulk, I imagine his asshole is getting mighty worried.

Red Hulk has him in a death grip with the anchor, forcing Cable to rely on some dumb luck. Well he gets it in a way that's more fucked up than it is dumb. Remember the techno-organic virus? You know, the thing that's been plaguing him his whole life and forced Cyclops to send him into the future back when Oliver North was being indicted for Iran Contra? Well he finally puts that shit to use and makes some deadly spikes from it. These spikes go into Red Hulk like a pin-cushion and unlike Cable, he hasn't had a lifetime with which to resist it. In the process he finds out that he can limit the damage done by the techno-organic virus by giving it to someone else. This is a little more fucked up because you would think that with all this time he would have figured that shit out. But he didn't. It may seem like an overly forced twist, but it succeeds in shutting up the Red Hulk. So in that sense it's the kind of fucked up dumb luck that works.

This could have been just the break Cable needed. He could have been back on track to start busting heads with more Avengers. But then there's a dramatic change with an emphasis on drama. I mentioned earlier that Blaquesmith was MIA for the first two books. Where could he have been? Well he wasn't just jerking off to the sound of people getting their ass kicked. He was off getting Cyclops and Hope, the only two people who could talk some sense into him. They arrive just in time to see him pointing a gun at Red Hulk's head. Needless to say, it makes for a very powerful moment.

Even if you didn't read Second Coming (the shame of a thousand glow sticks up the ass if you haven't), this moment has impact. Ever since the beginning of the series, Cable has made it clear that everything he's doing is for Hope. He sees the future and in it the Avengers made it so she and the rest of the world were scorched from the Earth. Now here she is right in front of him and while she's happy to see him, she's not too happy to find out that he's beating the shit out of the Avengers. Scott, his father mind you, isn't that thrilled either and Cable has never been one to act rationally when it comes to family matters. Just ask his son Tyler. Oh wait, he's dead. Never mind!

The drama here escalates. Cyclops is prepared to free the Avengers and stop his son. Cable isn't having it. They go back and forth, recalling what it means to be a parent and sacrifice for a child. Cyclops did that for Cable back when he was a baby and he makes it clear how much that stuck with him. Cable makes it clear that he's willing to make just as big a sacrifice for Hope. In a series that's been mostly Cable beating the shit out of the Avengers (which is pretty awesome in it's own right), this kind of drama really adds another element to the story. It's a major change from the last two issues, but in a decidedly awesome way.

The tension escalates as Cyclops makes it clear that he's not going to let Cable continue. Cable goes so far to point a gun at his own father, forcing Hope to stand between them before this becomes fucked up on a Jerry Springer type level. But before Springer can get to his Final Thought, the rest of the Avengers catch up with them. That includes Spider-Man and Wolverine. Yes, the same Wolverine that came to hate Cyclops's guts after Schism. And since they don't know what's going on, they see the Avengers all roughed up and that's enough to convince them that someone needs to get their ass kicked. Since Wolverine kicked Cyclops's ass in Schism, he probably figures that it's Cable's turn and Spider-Man can just be the comic relief. If that doesn't make the final issue all the more appealing, then have someone kick you in the balls because that's the only other way the impact could be greater.

Jeph Loeb may be more inconsistent than Lady Gaga's wardrobe, but when he makes an awesome comic it's a sight to behold. Three of four issues are finished and so far I've found no reason to go on another rant about comics that are more style than substance. At times I wonder if maybe I've smoked too much weed or ingested too many hallucinogens. Then I remember 12-stepping is for pussies and read the comic again to remind myself that this is real. This is Jeph Loeb at his best, telling a story that not only fits in nicely as a prelude to Avengers vs. X-men, but throws in a little drama to counter the adrenaline before it blows up your heart.

Now I admit I was a bit cautious about this issue because I suspected that Loeb would start following too much of a formula. The battle against Captain America and Iron Man weren't too varied aside from the tools they used. It could have gone the same way against Red Hulk, but by bringing Blaquesmith into the mix as well as Cyclops and Hope it adds an extra element of drama that the first two issues were missing. Some elements of it do feel a bit contrived like how Blaquesmith ran off to find Cyclops and Hope and only arrived in time to stop Red Hulk. The same goes for the techno-organic virus. He's had this thing for so long and only now he figures out how to slow it down? It seems off, but not by much.

X-Sanction is quickly becoming a very worthy prelude to Avengers vs. X-men. Cable's battle has been pretty intense so far, but in this issue it took a dramatic twist while filling in some blanks with the first two issues. I'm somewhat at a loss for how well Loeb has been handling this. I'm also at a loss for the implications this issue and this overall series will have on Avengers vs. X-men. X-Sanction #3 gets another 5 out of 5. And if the final issue ends as well as this one, then I'm that much more confident that Avengers vs. X-men will put me in an awesome induced coma. Nuff said!

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