Thursday, March 8, 2012
Uncanny X-men #8 - Disorganized Awesome
I don't consider myself overly neurotic when it comes to cleanliness. In fact, if you saw my old dorm room you might be compelled the call the CDC out of fear from the biohazard caused by various foods, exotic substances, and several unidentified stains on the bedsheets that science has yet to identify. But when it comes to comics, I can be a bit OCD at times. Few things prick my nutsack more than loose ends, incoherent plots, and poorly resolved stories. The way I see it, if you're going to tell a story you might as well do your best to cover all your basis. I don't expect every writer to make every aspect of a story perfect. My standards for comics aren't quite as high for my standards for weed. However, I like to sense that the writers and the editors that sign their paychecks make a concerted effort.
For the most part, I haven't had to worry about Kieron Gillen leaving too many gaping holes in his stories. He's usually pretty damn good about making his stories more refined. They're like the Dom Perignon of comics minus the douche-bag connotations. There's an inherent quality to his books that make it worth the $3.99 price that so many fanboys bitch about. The Tabula Rasa arc has been no exception. Gillen has crafted a very unique and very compelling arc thus far with this world that spun right out of the pages of Uncanny X-Force. He's built his story around an entirely new world and taken the time to flesh out entirely new races like the Apex. He even introduced the concept of the unwife, something I'm sure Larry King already coined in his head. The battle between Good Apex and Bad Apex led to a struggle that involved Celestial energy and the potential for mass extinction in this picturesque pocket world. It all promises to come together in this final issue. Does it meet Gillen's refine standards? Well if you already knew, you wouldn't need my drunken ass on this blog now would you?
This issue picks up right after the previous issue in one of the smoother transitions you'll see in a comic book. Good Apex and the X-men were able to defeat Bad Apex, or so it seemed. However, they have another nasty problem to deal with. Apparently, being stuck in a time loop for millions of years kind of fucked up the biology in this world. So when time finally became unfucked, it started fucking up said biology. Good Apex and Cyclops surmise that every living thing on this world is about to die of cancer. In terms of going extinct, it's a damn shitty way to go. It's like fighter pilot choking to death on bird shit. It's an inglorious way to go.
This shit storm with the Apex has now taken up a full issue and a few pages extra. So you would be completely forgiven if you forgot that there was another plot with Namor and Hope still unfolding in the waters of Tabula Rasa. That or you have the same weed dealer as I do, in which case you're lucky to remember your left ass cheek from your thumb. But yes, there was a story that unfolded over an issue ago. Hope and Namor took to the seas of Tabula Rasa in search of trapped civilians and answers. What they ended up finding was an undersea kingdom that Namor wasn't king over. So it's understandable that he would be a little pissed off, but while Namor's ego is bigger than the Andromeda galaxy he is capable of being diplomatic. He and Hope eventually encounter the queen of Tabula Rasa's undersea world. She looks like the Little Mermaid fucked Predator and has a body covered in miniature boobs. It's disgusting in some ways, yet oddly arousing in others. What? You never jerked off to a couple of cockroaches fucking? Namor gets it. He puts on his kingly charm and decides to negotiate with the queen (probably with his penis). This leaves Hope behind with the guards, her teenage hormones leaving her more confused than ever.
In addition to the plot with Hope and Namor, there was another side story going on with Colossus and Magik. It was about as developed as a ten-year-old's understanding of quantum physics, but it involved Illyana getting captured by some of Tabula Rasa's friendly animals. It's kind of like Rule 34. If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions. Well this is like Rule 35. If a cute blonde is in a comic, she will become the target of horrific monsters. No exception. Colossus doesn't take kindly to this rule so he decides to attack. The potential for blood and carnage here is great...except it doesn't happen. That's right. It happens off panel. This wonderful backdrop that could have had Colossus crushing Tabula Rasa's pets is completely left to the readers' imagination. Really? Marvel, maybe you didn't know, but we fans pay you to imagine this shit for us and bring it to life! We use our imagination enough as it is and masturbate to 90 percent of it. Please don't insult our intelligence and our pocketbooks.
Speaking of masturbation fantasies, the plot with Hope and Namor is resolved as quickly and unceremoniously as the battle with Colossus and Tabula Rasa's friendly pack of animals. Once again, we're left with no details. We just find out that Namor found a way to bang some undersea queen that looks like a bug that got into Barry Bonds's medicine cabinet. Is it disturbing? Well, it's not the most deranged sex scene in the history of comics. Not by a long shot (Superman and Big Barda take that title). But it is fucked up and it has the added effect of solving absolutely nothing. So it creates a partnership with Atlantis. That's all well and good, but what the fuck does it have to do with the story surrounding Tabula Rasa and the Apex? I'll give you a hint. It has the same value as Michelle Bauchman's credibility on gay rights. Absolutely zilch.
The story with Colossus and Illyana doesn't end much better. Colossus is done crushing all the creatures that were probably going to lay their eggs in Illyana's brain. In doing so he starts transforming into a monster himself. If WTFs are starting to spew out of your mouth and anus, don't worry. That just shows you're normal (but you should probably still see a proctologist). Illyana says that's just Cytorakk fucking with him. I say that's a fucked up, poorly constructed plot that could have easily been replaced by a page of Colossus beating the shit out of monsters. I get that Colossus was struggling with his new power earlier. What I don't get is why the story has to pan out like this.
This is a pretty jarring and disappointing way to handle these plots. I criticized Gillen for not addressing these side-stories he developed in the last issue. This issue seems to indicate that those stories were completely meaningless. They contributed absolutely nothing to the battle against Bad Apex. They contributed nothing to the conflict unfolding on Tabula Rasa. They contributed nothing to rescuing the civilians. In other words, they were a complete waste of time. I expect that from some comic writers, but not Kieron Gillen. Uncanny has made every drop of ink count to this point and these two plots do nothing except make me wish my car ran on WTF rather than imported gasoline from the Middle East.
By the time shit finally does get back to the Apex story, the WTF fades and boredom sets in. Off panel, the X-men and Good Apex meet up with the civilians that Good Apex gathered a couple issues ago. They're all understandably pissed off. But for once, this plot actually does tie into some of the larger elements surrounding this story. Tabula Rasa didn't just poof out of thin air. It was built by Arcangel over the ruins of a simple Montana town that he blew up with an atomic bomb. Some of these civilians were looking for family or survivors. Well, Psylocke (who was part of the whole Dark Angel shit that the rest of the team doesn't know about) tells them they got trapped in this crazy world for nothing. Those people are dead and Tabula Rasa is still being cooked by the sun. There's no sign of Bad Apex, but Good Apex still has a desire to protect his world. The creatures that Bad Apex harassed earlier want to do so as well. So what are they going to do?
Cue a shitty scene transition where all the action happens off panel. With no more battles against Bad Apex or any battles of any kind, shit just works itself out. The X-men somehow convince SHIELD and SWORD to construct a massive dome over Tabula Rasa and do it quick enough to prevent the world from being cancer-stricken by the sun. It's as practical as it is inane. I get that the Marvel universe is a place where traditional rules and regulations don't apply, but considering we can't drill for oil in uninhabited wastelands in Alaska because it might upset some Caribou and you can't erect a giant dick in your backyard without violating some fucked up zoning regulations I find it insanely fucked that a dome like this can be constructed. Even in a comic book, the mere fact that this shit happens without conflict or anything blowing up is a complete farce. It comes off as Gillen just trying to end this story and end it quickly.
While it is pretty lame, it does tie up all the loose ends. Gillen can't be faulted for ignoring every last detail. He also can't be faulted for making the interactions between the characters refined and entertaining. First, we see Hope hitting on Namor one last time. He makes clear that while he'll bone a queen that's not even his genus, he has no interest in entertaining her teenage hormones. He seems to despise redheads almost as much as Emma Frost. Speaking of which, we actually get a chance to catch up with her and see that the arm she lost in the last arc was being re-attached thanks to advanced medical gear on Utopia. So she wasn't completely forgotten. That and Good Apex has a nice little conversation with Cyclops and Storm, which helps really highlight how Good Apex is different from his unwife. He's a unique character with some unique perspectives and the way Gillen writes him should leave some hopeful that he shows up again in future stories.
Another nice character moment involves Psylocke and Magneto. One of the other minor details that Gillen didn't overlook was that in an earlier issue, there were traces of X-Force's handiwork on Tabula Rasa. Traces that would have raised a few eyebrows if Cyclops had seen it. Seeing as how disbanded X-Force and Wolverine kept it going, that would be more awkward than walking in on your sister when she's shaving her snatch. But Magneto revealed that he destroyed those traces. He's among the few who uncovered X-Force's existence before Schism, but he's kept it a secret much to Psylocke's chagrin. It makes for a rather telling moment where they talk about what side they're on and what they owe each other. It's more tense than a picnic in the West Bank and helps remind the readers that conflicts in other books still affect Uncanny in a way that is not to be ignored.
Kieron Gillen came into Uncanny X-men when the standards were mediocre at best and questionable at worst. Matt Fraction's inconsistency left room for improvement and I'll bet all the weed in Amsterdam that Kieron Gillen effectively raised the bar for those standards. I praise him not because I think British guys are more creative and faking their accents is a great pussy magnet. He earns every bit of praise I give him with his writing. So it's with a heavy heart and a shitty liver I say I'm a bit disappointed with him here.
The Tabula Rasa arc has been very well done to this point. The premise was perfect. It took the events of the Dark Angel Saga, left room for conflict that X-Force hadn't resolved, and put the Extinction team in the line of fire. The past few issues have done a great job of setting up the challenges. You have things like an Iron Man ripoff that uses the Old Testament as inspiration for how a god should act and Cyclops being swallowed up and pooped out by an island. Gillen went into great detail describing who the Apex were and what they were and what they were up against. It led to some amazing action, especially in the previous issue that involved such creative acts as Danger becoming Good Apex's unofficial Boba Fett costume. That action promised to culminate in this issue, but it didn't.
I'll concede that most of the loose ends were tied up. The side-plots that were ignored in the previous issues were addressed here. The threat posed by Tabula Rasa and the missing people who stumbled ass backwards into this Jurassic Park wannabe were saved. Even the inconvenient truth about this world being built over the ashes of a town that was wiped out by a nuclear blast was addressed. The problem was how poorly it all fit together. The conflicts with Hope and Namor as well as the little excursion with Magik and Colossus had pretty much no bearing whatsoever on what was going on with Apex. They might as well have gone off to smoke weed and jerk off to imported Russian porn. It would not have changed the outcome of the Tabula Rasa conflict one bit and probably would have been more entertaining. Even if it did involve some kinky inter-species sex with Namor and the queen, what did it really do for the story other than give mentally damaged perverts something else to masturbate to? For some writers, this may fly. For Kieron Gillen and the standards he set with his first arc, it's a turd on top of a stack of expensive caviar.
This issue wasn't bad. There were some nice interactions, Namor's inter-species boning notwithstanding. The moment with Magneto and Psylocke was especially well done. Tabula Rasa has the potential to be the new Savage Land for the Marvel universe. However, this conflict that Gillen did such a good job of setting up didn't even end with a whimper. It ended with a wet fart. There were no connections and the action was limited to inter-species porn and Colossus crushing oversized cockroaches. I'm sorry, but that just doesn't make for a very compelling entry into Kieron Gillen's Uncanny X-men legacy. So in an act that's going to require an extra shot of tequila, I give Uncanny X-men #8 a 2.5 out of 5. I can't give it too low a score because Gillen did tie up most if not all the loose ends. He just didn't do it with his usual flare. He still has my full confidence. But comics this discombobulated will turn fans off faster than an economics lecture. Nuff said!