Saturday, March 24, 2012
Uncanny X-men #9 - Sub-Orbital Awesome
My old high school gym teacher imparted two life-long lessons on me. The first one was "If I catch you masturbating in the girl's locker room again I'm calling the cops!" The second was "When you take on the whirlwind of shit that is life, you'll come out less smelly if you work with a team." I often found the latter more useful than the former. Teaming up is part of what has allowed human civilization to accomplish such wonderful feats like the pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and internet porn. In comics, team-ups are as common as yeast infections in hot tubs on the set of the Jersey Shore. While Marvel may be building towards an event that involves two teams that usually get along beating the everloving shit out of each other, there's still a place for team-based stories. The shit hasn't hit the fan yet so why not enjoy what precious time they have left before their sense of smell is permanently destroyed?
Uncanny X-men isn't billed as a book for team-ups. It's billed as a book where Kieron Gillen tells stories about how Cyclops's Extinction Team waves their dick in the face of humanity to let them know they'll still save their asses, but they won't be bullied. This team of heavy hitters is billed as a team with the kind of strength and firepower to take on threats that could wipe their ass with the entrails of the human race. They've already taken on the likes of Sinister and explored an entirely new world in Tabula Rasa. With Avengers vs. X-men just on the horizon, the Extinction team doesn't have much more time to reinforce the notion that power of their dick is not to be fucked with. Well Gillen has a fresh new arc for them to prove that and fanboys have plenty of lube and tissues should they need to mop up from the excessive waving of said dick.
This arc has been billed as the last amicable team-up between the X-men and Avengers before they start beating the shit out of each other. It's sort of like the good-natured handshake between teams in a football game before they begin placing bounties on the heads of opposing players (too soon, New Orleans?). It's an intriguing prospect for a story, but one that has a purpose beyond giving readers one last friendly team-up before a very unfriendly conflict begins. This is the Extinction Team's chance to show that their dick is just as big if not more so than the dick the Avengers have been waving for years. It's a good old fashioned dick-measuring contest with superpowers! What's not to be excited about?
Uncanny X-men #9 gets the ball rolling with a few little plots, which are fairly typical of a Kieron Gillen story. We get a chance to see Colossus standing in front of the prison cell where his sister, Magik, is held when she's not in the field aiding the Extinction Team. Danger, the de facto warden of the brig with boobs, offers a brief explanation to readers who smoke too much weed as to why Magik is locked up and why she's dangerous. Even if the reason is entirely valid (and if you read New X-men then you know it is), Colossus is still not happy with it and since he's now the fucking Juggernaut he has no reason to be polite about it.
Someone else who has no need for manners is Emma Frost. Between her plastic surgery, money, mutant powers, and attitude she doesn't really have much incentive to be kind to anyone. However, in the first arc of the Uncanny relaunch she did get humbled somewhat when she had her fucking arm blown off. It forced her to sit out the Tabula Rasa arc, leaving Psylocke to fill in the obligatory sex appeal that Marvel needs to cater to the testicle-bearing portion of their readership. But Emma had her arm re-attached in the last issue and she's already exercising it by taking on a scenario of Sinister clones...in her underwear. Why? Because she's Emma fucking Frost! If she wants to do something half-naked, then by the ass hairs of Zeus she's going to do it! However, getting your arm blown off can have an impact even on the most egocentric of blondes. So it's no surprise that Namor seeks her out to console her/attempt to get an Atlantian snorkel from her (which I assume is their euphemism for blow job). He only partially succeeds, but what's more telling is that Cyclops isn't the one aiding his half-naked girlfriend. You would think he would have problems with his sexually liberated lady friend rubbing shoulders (and possibly other organs) with a real king, but he's so distracted that not even a half-naked Emma Frost can stop him. If this doesn't show Cyclops is becoming unhinged, nothing short of him cutting off his own balls will.
Now normally, I use scenes like this to go on a rant about how Marvel never does anything to drive a wedge between Cyclops and Emma. Well, maybe I'm not drunk enough, but I can't really rant about it this time. The Cyclops/Emma relationship hasn't been too prominent lately and Cyclops's increasing obsession with protecting Hope Summers seems to have gotten in the way of the usual bedroom antics that Matt Fraction loved to describe. I'm not complaining and I'm not getting my hopes up that Marvel will actually allow something to happen with Namor and Emma. I'm just saying it's not as overt as it once was and I think that's a good thing.
These dramatic elements are typical of Kieron Gillen's style and set an interesting tone for the rest of the arc. However, drama alone can't make a story awesome. Gillen knows this and introduces the Extinction Team's newest threat, which is actually not so new. Some may be too high to remember, but Kieron Gillen did have another gig before he got involved with Uncanny X-men. He wrote the brief, but memorable series SWORD. Before Marvel decided to act like assholes and cancel the series, he introduced a character named Unit. Now skipping all the dick jokes I could make about that, this is a being that's part sentinel and part Silver Surfer. That earned him a place in the most secure area of SWORD's sub-orbital prison. Not content with just jerking off to images he can scratch on a well, he hatches an escape that if his inner narration is any indication puts him on the same exotic level as the Scarlet Witch in terms of beating the odds. It's one of Gillen's best talents, narrating a character that may or may not be less than stable. But you know what isn't stable? SWORD's defenses, causing their entire sub-orbital brig to break off and crash into the Earth.
When something that catastrophic happens, it turns Abigail Brand from the coldest bitch this side of Ann Colter's taint to a graveling child begging her mommy for a sippy cup. She interrupts Cyclops and Emma as they're discussing Magik's less-than-favorable status. It's probably for the best because if the conversation went for too long, Colossus would probably go Juggernaut and attack Cyclops in a way that could not be defended by Emma Frost's boobs. It effectively silences Colossus before he can make his case, but since an outbreak of alien prisoners usually means the Extinction Team needs to be at full capacity that means Magik can get some fresh air and maybe vent some of that demonic influence of hers. It's like letting your sister out of her room to attack the mailman when she's PMSing. You just gotta let her vent.
With help from Magik's quick teleportation powers, the X-men arrive at at site where some of the alien prisoners from SWORD decide to treat a small town diner like the toilet in a gas station bathroom. Being cooped up in a sub-orbital brig leaves them with little regard for Earthly property and they don't give a damn if they destroy one more place where a red-blooded American can get drunk. As a functioning booze hound, I take a great deal of satisfaction in seeing the X-men show up and kick their ass. It's a spectacle like pretty much every fight with the Extinction Team. They're even nice enough to rescue the civilians, presumably after telling them to inform everyone they meet from here on out that their dick is really that big and really not to be questioned.
But what about Unit? Why would he just cut all these prisoners loose? Well, it's a damn good distraction, that's for sure. When a dangerous figure with more power in it's pinkie finger than Tommy Lee has in is penis breaks free, that usually draws a lot of attention. This allows Unit to carry out it's mission, which isn't quite clear. But for some reason it involves plopping itself down in the middle of a snowy wilderness and scaring the piss out of a couple of hunters. Like anyone in the woods armed with a gun, when they see something that looks inhuman they usually shoot. For Unit, it's akin to a mosquito bite. He's remarkably casual in the way he narrates his actions as he strikes fear into these two unfortunate humans. He also paralyzes one of them before forming what looks like the world's worst circumcision blade. He claims an interest in seeing what makes humans tick. Unfortunately, that involves taking them apart and observing the innards. Like my old biology class when the teacher leaves us unattended with dead frogs and crazy glue, it's bound to get messy.
As a result of this mess, the Extinction Team has to enlist some help in dealing with this alien riot that's on par with a 100 LA riots. Well they don't enlist as they so much cross paths. After the Extinction Team effectively exacts justice on behalf of alcoholics everywhere that like to get shit faced at diners, the Avengers show up in their jet. It's every bit as random as it sounds. Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, and even Storm and Wolverine show up. Not much is said other than the world is getting shat upon and they need to team up. That and the Avengers lack a teleporter like Magik. Even though these teams are destined to beat the shit out of each other very soon, they don't say much and not much is made of Wolverine teaming up with Cyclops again either. They just team up and start spanning the world, looking for escapees to beat up. It makes for some nice action scenes, but the basis is still a bit underwhelming.
Now I know this arc was billed as an Avengers and X-men team-up, but given how much detail Gillen gives to other dramatic elements in this issue this team-up just falls a bit flat. The X-men finish their first battle against the SWORD prisoners and the Avengers just show up. Usually, Gillen is pretty good about meshing the plot elements so that they flow naturally (the last issue notwithstanding). This just seems a bit abrupt even if it does make sense that a prison break would require both the X-men and the Avengers and possibly the Texas National Guard as it exists in Rick Perry's head. It's not sloppy by any stretch, but it could have been done better.
So the X-men and Avengers are completely occupied, leaving Unit to finish his extensive probing of the unfortunate human rednecks he came across. It's implied that the probing was pretty gruesome, more so than any Jenna Jameson porno could ever get away with. The man looks like he wishes that this alien-looking creature stuck only to rectal probing. The art isn't too graphic here, but if you're imagination is half-way as sick as mine you can probably infer that the man suffered quite a bit. As for his hunting buddy, he doesn't get away with much either. He has his fucking head blown up and I'm not talking about the kind of blowing up that happens with a good bong hit. Now as gruesome as this is, Unit does continue to narrate that there's a purpose behind it. He wanted to dissect humans and he wanted to see what made them tick. If it means cutting them open Ted Bundy style, that's perfectly alright. But dissecting a human just doesn't give it the boner it wants. It now set it's sight on a mutant.
And what better mutant to probe than a pretty teenage redhead that happens to be the mutant messiah? Using the same deceptive tricks he used to trigger the prison break, Unit creates a false new mutant signal that the Cuckoos detect. With the battle against the SWORD prisoners still going on, Hope breaks off and gathers her (canceled) Generation Hope team. But when she arrives, Unit is ready for them. Like the two hunters that tried to attack him with antiquated boom sticks, the Lights make a pretty vain effort at attacking him. Rather than give them a good probing, he just teleports them away before taking the mutant messiah in his grasp. It means that not only could Unit be poised to cut up the most powerful mutant on the planet at the moment. He could be poised to cut up mutant kind's last hope before she can go Dark Phoenix. In this sense, I'm not quite sure if I should be rooting against the guy.
So the final team-up between the X-men and the Avengers has begun. This issue got things started in a very basic manner. Kieron Gillen demonstrated his usual sophistication in progressing plots from the point of view of certain characters. Both Danger and Unit helped establish a mindset for the story. It's one of Gillen's most defining talents aside from having a British accent to lure female readers into comics. While the conflict itself is set up nicely, the action it incurs is a bit overly basic. You get the sense that the Avengers really didn't need to just show up and ask the X-men for assistance. They probably could have just started fighting the escaped prisoners and rubbed elbows along the way. It makes the crossover seem a bit forced even if it is logistically a sound. It would have been nice to make the team-up a bit more seamless, but it still works.
Every other element in the issue is as awesome as one should expect from Kieron Gillen's work. While the previous issue was a disappointment, this issue returns to form in a scrotum crushingly awesome way. There are dramatic elements with Colossus and his sister. There are romantic elements with Emma Frost and Namor. There's a sense of mystery with Unit and why he's doing what he's doing. The presence of the Avengers as well as an appearance from the Generation Hope cast make for a story that's on a scale almost as big as Donald Trump's inferiority complex. It's an entertaining issue that should get anyone excited about this last friendly adventure before the animosity and feuding steps in.
Uncanny X-men returned to prominence under Matt Fraction thanks in large part to the large-scale stories he told. Kieron Gillen added some much needed balance to the series and since the relaunch, it has become one of the most consistently awesome X-books on the market. While the last issue was a rare anomaly of sorts, this issue recaptures everything that we've come to love from Uncanny X-men. It has all the right elements of an awesome X-men comic and Emma Frost in her underwear. There's room for improvement, but not by much. I give Uncanny X-men #9 a 4 out of 5. It's Avengers, X-men, and escaped alien prisoners. It's simple, it's fun, and it's entertaining. And unlike masturbation, it's not nearly as messy. Nuff said!