Saturday, March 3, 2012

Astonishing X-men #47 - The Awesome of a Multiverse

I don't claim to speak for all comic book fans with drinking problems, but I try to appeal to a broad base of readers who may or may not have outstanding warrants for their arrest in a few states in the Midwest. Some books make that harder than trying to take a piss with a full on boner after your asshole drinking buddy slipped a viagra into your blow. Some books inspire an Israeli/Palestinian type divide with those who love and appreciate it and those who despise or scoff at it. Astonishing X-men has been among those books ever since Joss Whedon left the title. Greg Pak took over a book that was basically an anomaly, a non-thong pair of underwear in Snooki's dresser if you will. It was a book badly in need of coherence and he decided to deliver that coherence by getting a fuck ton of multiple universes involved. That's a George W. Bush style approach to a problem, but unlike old President Fuck-It-Let's-Invade, Greg Pak has made it work.

This arc has been more than just another Marvel stroll into a fucked up timeline of alternate worlds. Pak has sent Cyclops in a personal journey of sorts. He's still reeling after the events of Schism (yes, Astonishing actually fit into the other X-books for once). He gets roped into a mission by an alternate Storm that wants to jump his bone that involves a trip to an alternate world where Charles Xavier has gone bat-shit insane and created a machine fueled by mutants he gathers from alternate universes as meat fuel to save his world. A world, mind you, that Magneto ripped apart. It's led to countless deaths of various Cyclopses, Magnetos, Wolverines, and what not. Well 616 Cyclops had a problem with that and decided to break out and do something about it. Along the way he met up with an alternate Emma, an alternate Wolverine, an alternate Kitty Pryde, and an alternate Kurt that's actually more lovable than his counterpart if you can believe that. Together, they've tried to take down Xavier, who humbly calls himself Savior in this world. With an ego like that, I can only imagine what he calls his penis.

At the end of the previous issue, Cyclops managed to fight his way towards Savior's domain with alternate Wolverine, or James as he is in this case. He was on the business end of Savior's psychic enlightenment attack that connected his mind to the millions he was trying to save on his world. He thought that would get Cyclops to see the light. He ended up blasting his twisted ass again. He's still not okay with the whole raiding other universes and throwing them into his psychic meat grinder. He's weird like that. Savior, not daunted for a second, decides to stop playing nice and summons reinforcements in the form of an alternate universe Armor. Because what better guardian to have than a cute Asian chick armed with a giant energy monster? I'm sure there's a convention for shit like that in Japan.

Since Savior isn't too broken up about sacrificing countless innocent mutants from multiple universes in his meat grinding world saving machine, he really doesn't seem to care much about endangering civilians. His message to Cyclops is clear. He universe's greatest microscope to see the amount of shit he gives about this moral stand he's taking. Keep in mind he needs to make Cyclops his meat puppet in order to keep his world in one piece. So if he has to blow some shit up and take control of an overpowered Japanese girl, he'll do it and he'll get drunk afterwards at a strip club. Cyclops isn't going to convince him to value innocent life. So he's going to need another approach.

It may look like just another battle between the X-men and an insane psychotic enemy, but Pak goes out of his way to make clear that Savior's title isn't something he just cobbled together because it would help get him laid. He actually did save this world and he did it by sacrificing mutants. His not a guy looking to dominate his world. He's looking to keep it in one piece. Granted, he's still as crazy as a couple of squirrels that got into my crack stash, but his determination is understandable and well supported by the story.

This is where Storm (the one that kissed him) comes in. She actually values Cyclops's penis more than she values Savior's mission. Once again, the power of Cyclops's penis is enough to make a woman betray her messiah. How many guys who overestimate the capacity of their dicks can say that with a straight face? She and Emmilene (alternate Emma Frost) reveal that there is a way for him to stop this. He has to put that insane machine of Xavier's to use. Yes, that means sacrificing life and limb, but this is Cyclops. He does that sort of shit as part of his breakfast routine. Storm also takes a moment to get mushy on Cyclops again. To this point it's become clear that this version of Storm really loves Cyclops. It's not elaborated on and that's too bad because a world where Storm and Cyclops are bumping uglies is a world with a lot of story to tell. It's much more interesting than the story Emmeline gave, stating that she married the Cyclops in her world just because it pissed her father off. As someone who has pissed off many fathers, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is not a good premise for a relationship nor is it a term of endearment.

Cyclops still does what a hero is supposed to do. He jumps into this machine of death, doing his best to keep his massive balls from damaging the sides. Is he really going to do it? Is he going to sacrifice his sorry ass again? If you really think he was considering it, you need to lay off the paint thinner. He just blows the fucking thing up. That's usually a viable solution in every major comic book story. It works here and he throws in a quick blast to Savior, which I gather is just a final fuck you.

Now try and understand what he just did here. Cyclops didn't just blow up some madman's toys. He blew up the machine that was holding Savior's world together. That can be taken as a dick move on way too many levels. Even when Savior points this out though, Cyclops responds in a way that makes it a bit harder to hate his guts. He tells Savior that if he's smart enough to assemble countless armies of Xavier's from multiple universes, then he's more than smart enough to find a way of saving his world that doesn't involve human sacrifice. He's not wrong. The anti-Cyclops crowd will still think he's a douche, but he's a douche with balls that are awe-inspiring in any universe.

Savior doesn't take kindly to his suggestion though. Once again, he sics Armor on Cyclops and his makeshift X-men. But this time, he pours a little gasoline onto the fire by slaughtering Armor's family Godfather style. Why would he do something that fucked up? Because Armor's powers are fueled by the spirits of her ancestors. Take her ancestors out of the picture and you've gone from rookie scout team leader to the fucking pro bowl. Cyclops and his makeshift X-men stand about as much a chance as Tim Tebow does as winning converts in Saudi Arabia. But Savior isn't content to just fuck with Cyclops. He actually was smart enough to have a backup plan in case someone was ballsy enough to destroy his machine. that backup plan involves a little something called the Ghost Box. Astonishing X-men fans who read the series when it was still ignoring the continuity like Apple ignores human rights abuses in Chinese factories knows that the Ghost Box is like God's cheat codes. By powering it with Armor's energy, he can basically kick the god that made his universe in the balls to fix his world.

There's just one problem. 616 Cyclops and his X-men have a Ghost Box too in his world. And remember kid Nightcrawler? Who may or may not have been burnt to a crisp in the last issue? Well apparently he's okay. With help from the 616 Ghost Box, he teleports in some backup. One is Storm, the one who didn't swap spit with Cyclops. The other is 616 Emma Frost, the one who regularly swaps all kinds of body fluids with Cyclops. That's some pretty powerful backup and they both have plenty of motivation to help Cyclops. It leads to some interesting conversations with their counterparts, including a scene where Emma may or may not have reconsidered her approach to marriage as being an outdated custom. But that's secondary to the multiverse fucking madman who still has Armor at his disposal.

He still seems to have the upper hand. That's until once again Kid Nightcrawler shows up to fuck Savior's shit up. He teleports right into the chaos and places a magneto helmet over Savior's head. Not only does it make him look stupid, it blocks his powers. That means he can't control Armor anymore and Armor is able to find out that this asshole just killed her whole family. Savior or no savior, you don't pull that kind of shit against a girl who can create giant energy monsters that can use your bones to scratch it's balls. Needless to say, Savior doesn't stand a chance. Armor ends his sorry ass in a dazzling, yet satisfying way.

The madman who had a hard-on for human sacrifice is defeated. Cyclops and his makeshift X-men are in one piece and can breathe a sigh of relief. However, there's still a little matter of this world that's falling apart faster than a hut in Somalia. Cyclops is at first committed to helping this world find a way to save itself. But the other alternate X-men think he's done enough. In an act that has added value given the recent events of Schism, the alternate Wolverine shoves Cyclops back into the Ghost box with Emma and Storm so that he can leave their world and return to his own. It's a pretty powerful moment even if it comes off as a dick move. In it, Wolverine actually compliments Cyclops for having the guts to take on Savior when he had fucked up so many others. It's probably the closest thing to a real friendly comment that he's ever gotten from Wolverine in any incarnation. It has a significant impact and one that really brings the story together.

Now that's not to say it ties up every loose end. What about Shadow? Is she dead? What about all those other Xavier heads that were floating around a few issues ago? And what about the innate awkwardness between the two Storms when one of them reveals she tried to jump Cyclops's bone? There are some glaring plots that got glossed over. I assume Pak just couldn't squeeze enough on one page, but it does make some parts of the book feel too narrow. It doesn't feel as big as it should and no that's not another dick joke.

So Cyclops returns to his world. He, Storm, and Emma have a little chat. Even though he left behind a world that was falling apart and being held together with scotch tape, he and the other express confidence that the other X-men will solve the problem. Hell, they still have that Cerebra with all the Xavier heads. If they can't use all that brainpower to figure out a way to save their world then they deserve to die with it. But in what may be the most fitting ending for a comic possible, Cyclops pops open a beer as was requested by alternate Wolverine and he slams back a few cold ones in triumph. He even opens it with his powers. If that isn't a perfect ending that shows Cyclops's balls are more robust than yours will ever be, then this universe isn't worth living in anymore.

So once again, Greg Pak has taken time from hulking out to grace the X-books with his brilliance. I find it hard to really place this arc on a scale with his other work because he set the bar pretty fucking high with Phoenix Endsong. He also missed that bar entirely once before with Phoenix Warsong. He's done more than enough to make a good name for himself in the annuls of Marvel, but he's only had brief whiffs of the X-books. They're like those whiffs of paint thinner you sniff at a Home Depot to get slightly high. You know there's more, but you just don't have the means to explore it (that and Home Depot banned you after you used the riding lawnmowers for a drunken joust match). But my Saturday afternoon antics aside, my point is that Pak really hasn't had a chance to tell a lot of stories with the X-books. However, he has made the most of those chances. His stories are brief, but they do have a significant impact that Marvel sometimes tries to ignore (see Phoenix Endsong again and the Sisterhood arc in Uncanny). And with this arc, the impact is pretty damn astonishing.

Greg Pak isn't staying on board Astonishing X-men and that's a shame because he did something pretty amazing with this arc. Not only did he finally sync this title up with the other comics. He brought to surface many of the instincts and insecurities that make Cyclops who he is. He didn't just lead a team of alternate X-men in a battle against a psychotic Xavier. He confronted some of his own demons that had been kicking his ass early in the arc. What makes it all the more compelling is that characters like Savior didn't come off as completely batshit. He's a guy who really wanted to save his world and he didn't feel too bad about raiding an infinite multiverse for human resources that he could grind up and fuel his machines. Yeah, he's twisted in a way that makes Lady Gaga look modest, but his heart was in the right place so to speak and like anyone he did anything he could to save his world. It made for the kind of struggle that makes for both great drama and great conflict.

There's still the matter of the deceptive elements early on in the arc. The whole Storm and Cyclops kissing still feels like a gimmick. It's only subtly revealed that the Storm in this world was in love with Cyclops. It would have been nice to explore and it would have been even nicer if it actually had some kind of impact on Cyclops's current relationship situation with Emma I-Imprison-Sebastian-Shaw-and-Lie-About-It Frost. It also would have been nice if it was more clear on what happened to Shadow or Nightcralwer. Plus the whole Ghost Box details were a little choppy. However, in the end the conclusion was very satisfying and the impact of the story hit hard as Greg Pak's stories so often do.

Everything came together nicely in this issue. It makes me sad that once again we'll have to wait until the next blue moon before Greg Pak does another X-book. His ability to tell stories that really hit hard with both plot and character is something that every comic needs. This arc had it's faults. Some of those faults were difficult to escape even as the story ended strong. However, I can't help but feel satisfied after reading this arc. It's like that feeling you get after you smoke a really good joint. You can't be in too bad a mood when you're done. I give Astonishing X-men #47 a 4 out of 5. Thanks for your time, Mr. Pak! That's two beers I owe you! One for Phoenix Endsong and one for this! If you need something more potent, then let me make a few calls and we'll work something out. Nuff said!

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