Saturday, March 10, 2012
X-men #26 - Bloodbath of Awesome
I have a simple rule when it comes to vampires in comics. As long as they don't act like hippies and fucking sparkle, I'll give them a chance. I'll be the first to say I'm pretty sick of the vampire craze inspired by Twilight. I wouldn't make so many jokes about Robert Pattinson's penis if I wasn't annoyed by the world's annoying fascination with these pussy moistening blood suckers. However, vampires are a part of pop culture despite Stephanie Meyer's evil influence. Before she was getting her period, Marvel was telling stories about vampires and telling them quite well. It wasn't until the Curse of the Mutants story arc last year that vampires returned to the Marvel universe in a big way and the current arc of Victor Gischler's adjectiveless X-men almost makes you overlook how sick you are of vampires...almost.
While the first issue for this arc started off slow, disappointing, and full of Jubilee's whining, it has definitely picked up. The X-men's security team, led by Storm and all the reasons she has to be pissed for being married off to Black Panther is in search of Jubilee. In the last issue they found her and the vampires that abducted her. A fight broke out as is often the case with anyone who tries to pull a teenage girl away from a vampire's grasp. In that sense they're not unlike R. Kelly minus the urine. Jubilee made her position clear when she yelled at the X-men for fighting against the people who were trying to help her. It's easy to forget that she's new to being a vampire and hasn't quite mastered the whole urge-to-suck-peoples-blood-and-kill-them instinct. Razio promises to help her. Unfortunately, Razio has a long list of enemies and by long list I mean they all stormed his stronghold in the South China Sea D-Day style.
This is where the story picks up. Among those seeking a big fat paycheck from Razio's head is Deadpool. Even though he's part of X-Force, he's still a mercenary and he's gotta make a living. If for no other reason than to buy tacos and bullets. Thankfully, Domino has a history with him and she also has killer boobs. So she manages to confront Domino before he barges into the base and starts shooting. At first, he's hesitant to pass up a big payday. Then Domino offers to go on a date with him and he agrees to help. I'll admit it. For a date with Domino and a chance to tap that ass, I would brave an incoming army of supervillains.
But it'll take more than just Deadpool's insanity or Domino's boobs to protect them from this onslaught. Both the X-men and the Forgiven have dispatched their heavy hitters into the fray, looking to hold off the assault. It's definitely the kind of shit that will ruin your Sunday, but this timing is pretty fucked up. Both Razio and Storm notice it. Whenever an army of villains looking for a fat payday show up at your doorstep foaming at the mouth, someone usually has their dick in your business. So like competent leaders in a book that is clearly trying to avoid being another mutant/vampire mash up, they proceed cautiously. Storm, not ready to leave Jubilee behind with Razio, stays in the base with Psylocke. She must think his hold on teenage girls is more unhealthy than Robert Pattinson's hair gel. They all watch the fireworks unfold and without popcorn no less.
The action here is pretty heavy, much more so than the previous issue. This isn't a scuffle built on some misunderstanding. These are the X-men and the vampires they were looking to slaughter having to fight off an invasion of money, grubbing mercenaries. It's almost like lobbyists descending on Congress, but without quite as much bloodshed and substantially less hookers. Like said lobbyists, these guys came packing heavy hardware. But that shit is a fucking coke can compared to Colossus. He didn't get to strut his stuff in Uncanny X-men #8, so he gets to make up for it here by snapping a tank in half. And on panel no less! Sure, he gets an unfortunate surprise when someone phases through him like a ghost and makes him feel like that girl from the Exorcist, but it's still pretty badass on new fewer than a hundred different levels.
The Forgiven show that they can kick plenty of ass as well and without sparkling or showing off their fangs. The same vampires that gave the X-men a run for their money in the previous issue show they can more than measure up against an army of money grubbing bounty hunters not named Dog. One of them, Black Axe, not only shows that he has a kick-ass nickname, but he's also smarter than the average bounty hunter. The Forgiven seem to rely not just on being hippie vampires, but outsmarting those who think they can become Buffy with just a crucifix and a stake. When one of the talkative targets decides to wield his ball and chain (not a dick metaphor I'm sure), he ends up making himself look like an idiot by causing an entire cliff to collapse. It's a more creative way to beat an enemy and that much more satisfying.
Despite the overwhelming odds, things seem to be going well for both the X-men and the Forgiven. You get the sense that Storm should get some Doritoes and Razio should get one of Ted Nugant's pets and enjoy the show. But they still don't feel like taking it easy just yet. There's still a significant debate to have regarding Jubilee. She's still adamant about trusting Razio. Storm has trusted vampires before and nearly had her head bitten off as a result. Guys like Dracula leave a bad impression so Storm is not too enthused about Jubilee's decision, but she makes clear that she's not going to let her use it as an excuse to be a complete brat (which she has been for several issues now).
This tension is somewhat secondary to the more pressing concerns that Razio has. The mere fact that their counterattack against the onslaught of bounty hunters is going so well is cause for concern. He and Storm seem to understand that when shit is going this smoothly, some much bigger shit is about to hit the fan. And wouldn't you know it? They turn out to be right. It's another law of physics in comics. If shit goes smoothly, shit is about to get heavy.
It's a classic tactic that would be so cliched if it didn't work so well. The rest of the X-men and the Forgiven our stuck outside taking on the onslaught of bounty hunters. Domino, still obligated to let Deadpool see her naked for his help, coordinates with the others to bring the battle to a stalemate. But in doing so, they pretty much keep themselves occupied from whatever real threat is going on inside. I'm pretty sure there's a whole section about this tactic in the Art of War, but I'll leave that book to generals and investment bankers. All we as comic book readers need to know is that it worked. The X-men and the Forgiven are divided and distracted. That means we can find out who's really behind this shit.
Who could it be? A monster? A well known Dr. Doom style villain? A hot chick with a Buffy hard-on? Well, it's not as groundbreaking as that I'm afraid. Inside the base, a psychic bomb goes off that neutralizes Psylocke and Storm ends up getting gassed in a way you would only experience by being stuck in a cab with an angry New York Jets fans after leaving a wing eating contest. It's all courtesy of neatly dressed enemy with a very gay looking mask that looks like it was a rejected design for V for Vendetta. It may not look very intimidating, but the asshole behind it managed to neutralize the X-men and seriously wound Razio. That shit has to count for something.
The mystery villain doesn't say much. He/she/it seems content to let actions speak louder than words. Those actions have a clear message, "You're fucked and I outsmarted you. Now watch me jack off." That last part was implied. However, not everyone is down for the count. Jubilee, the fucked up teen who Razio couldn't convince to drink sheep's blood a few issues ago, is still on her feet. She's the only one left to take on this creature that just took down the X-men and the Forgiven. It doesn't seem like a fair fight until you realize that this is a fucked up teenager who has been pissed off by her friends and her captors and still has the added aid of renegade teenage hormones. If I were the mystery villain, I would rather kidnap Lois Lane and wave my dick in the face of Superman than take on Jubilee at the moment. That and you have to admit she looks pretty badass with a katana.
Going back to what I said about being sick of vampires earlier, I'll add to that sentiment one simple truth. Awesome stories trumps all cliches. Victor Gischler has been on his longest winning streak since this series began and I couldn't be more happy about it. This was a series that started strong, but was mired in mediocrity while other X-books like Uncanny X-Force outshined it. I can't overstate how impressed I've been with Gischler since he took over after X-men Regenesis. This issue highlights so many aspects of what makes this series great. We've got an onslaught from the Assassins Guild, a guest appearance from Deadpool, a mysterious new foe in the Claw, and Jubilee stepping up to show that she can kick more as as a vampire than she ever could as a mutant. It feels like a book that captures other elements of the Marvel universe and makes this series truly awesome.
Just a few issues ago, I criticized this arc for being too detached. An entire issue was dedicated only to Jubilee and Razio's crew of hippie vampires. While that issue was still a bump in the road, it certainly helped in setting the stage for what Razio is up against. He and his vampire crew show that they've got some bite in them that doesn't just involve blood sucking. His history is pretty extensive and his motivations have been built up nicely over the past few issues. The tension with Storm is certainly an added bonus and one that plays up her history with vampires (namely as Dracula's squeeze). It culminates in a conflict that is predictable in some ways, but plays out in a way that's still very entertaining. Even if you hate vampires and have nightmares of Stephenie Meyer trying to rip out your soul, you'll find something to love about this issue.
This is quickly becoming one of my favorite arcs that Gischler has put together since his run began. It still has a ways to go. It left a lot of room for mystery surrounding who is attacking Razio. One could argue it's too much room and too ambiguous, but if it isn't enough to excite you about the next issue then you're just being a douche. X-men #26 is full of action, suspense, mystery, and Deadpool cracking jokes. It's everything you want in a comic of this nature. For that, I give it a 4.5 out of 5. I'm leaving half a point off so that there's room for improvement with the big conclusion. This is a big moment for this series and for Jubilee. She hasn't been this awesome since the 90s or this bonerific for all your fetish types. The world may be sick of vampires, but seeing as how they're not going away anytime soon we might as well enjoy the ones that are least likely to remind us of Twilight. Nuff said!