Thursday, March 22, 2012
X-Sanction #4 - Making Way for Awesome
I know I usually start all my reviews with some witty anecdote that links the comic I'm about to review to some of my drunken philosophies on life or to some fucked up shit I did the last time I blacked out, depending on how high I am. Well my intoxication aside, I'd like to skip that shit this time because the book I'm about to review simply has no parallel with anything I've done on a weekend with a stolen credit card and a shoe box full of blow. It isn't just because this comic is the final issue of a four-part mini-series that has helped partially rebuild my respect for Jeph Loeb (sorry, but it just can't be whole again after the elephant shit he dumped on Ultimate). It's because this comic, X-Sanction, is the great calm before the storm. It's akin to foreplay before you fuck a really hot chick. That hot chick is Avengers vs. X-men and Marvel has been doing their darndest to give us a boner so hard that we could cut diamonds with it. Well X-Sanction has done a damn good job thus far. I haven't had to mix ground up bits of viagra in my blow for months, but it goes much deeper than boner jokes if you can believe that.
X-Sanction was billed as the return of Cable, who like so many other Marvel characters not named Gwen Stacy was shaking off his latest bout with death. The details at first were vague. We just knew he was back from the future and wanted to beat the shit out of the Avengers. That in and of itself is a pretty decent selling point for any comic, but fuck if it's not enough. Once Avengers vs. X-men was announced, X-Sanction took on a much greater importance that went beyond merely watching Cable kick ass as he's so prone to do in his spare time. It became a pre-cursor to Avengers vs. X-men, a means of giving both teams more reasons to beat each other up in case the threat of the Phoenix Force isn't enough. So far, Jeph Loeb has done a damn good job making both this series and the upcoming Avengers vs. X-men event all the brain-meltingly awesome. But he's still gotta finish or like the guy who cums prematurely in a porno, he leaves a mess and mortally wounds his manhood.
X-Sanction #4 begins just before X-Sanction #3 ended. At the end of X-Sanction #3, Cable was still battling Cyclops and Hope who were trying to calmly explain to him that fighting the Avengers was not a good idea. Before Cable could tell them to sufficiently fuck off, Wolverine and Spider-Man showed up. But where the fuck did they come from and where were they earlier? Making another deal with Mephisto to make people forget that the new Spider-Man movie is basically another origins movie? Nope, they were busy cleaning up that prison break that was hatched in issue one and promptly forgotten about. So Jeph Loeb didn't leave that plot threat dangling, for which I give him credit. Yeah, it happened off panel and it required Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Thing to step in as reinforcements. But this comic is about Cable, not about the Avengers playing dog catcher.
Catch up to the present and Wolverine doesn't waste time welcoming Cable back from the dead with his claws. For him, it doesn't matter that he fought alongside the X-men and gave his life to save Hope. He kidnapped the Avengers, hooked them up to a ship wired to blow, and was prepared to kill them. Wolverine rarely needs many reasons to kill someone, but the shit Cable's pulled is more than sufficient. Some may piss and moan about how Wolverine was too aggressive. I say he's just aggressive enough by his standards. It's like he and Cable were ever best buddies anyways. Hell, he's the son of the guy who boned Jean Grey. That in and of itself is enough reason to hate him.
But the battle is more than just Wolverine and Cable slugging it out, which admittedly is pretty damn awesome in it's own right. Hope and Cyclops's arrival in the last issue threw Cable off his game worse than Tiger Woods trying to play golf at a tournament run by all the porn stars he boned. He never got a chance to explain that the future he came from was nuked like a hot-pocket. So when the fighting starts, Hope and Cyclops are reluctant to aid either side. Hope tries to fire some warning shots at Spider-Man, who is basically just serving as a comic relief. His humor is off-beat, but he's getting shot at by a teenage girl. Given the disrespect he made to redheads everywhere when he sold his marriage to the devil, I think Hope is sending him a message that all the comic relief in the world doesn't make him any less a douche.
The battle progresses quickly and effectively by Jeph Loeb standards. Cyclops is wounded by Hope's shooting. Spider-Man is knocked off the ship by Cyclops, also delivering a blow on behalf of redheaded women everywhere. However, Wolverine is still clawing at Cable, who at this point looks like the Terminator's prison bitch after the techno-organic virus finally got the best of him. The ship is also wired to blow. Oh yeah, did I forget to remind you? Sorry, weed will do that. Cable revealed that he wired the ship to blow in issue 1 in case some bullshit like this happened and he couldn't take down the Avengers in time. Well that plan is more fucked than the couch cushion of a 38-year-old porn addict. So in an effort to make the situation slightly less volatile, Blaquesmith (who was never too keen on Cable's plan to begin with) instructs Hope to take the bomb apart. It seems like a lot to ask for a teenage girl, but then again Cable raised her. He probably told her about defusing bombs before he told her about tampons.
Hope successfully defuses the bomb, but this has the unexpected effect of freeing Falcon from his stasis. Having been knocked out or beat up since issue one, it's about damn time he get involved in the action if for no other reason than to keep Al Sharpton from complaining. He along with the injured Cyclops free Captain America and Iron Man while Red Hulk pisses himself off enough to burn away the techno-organic virus that Cable infected him with. At the same time, Cable is getting weaker while Wolverine is still venting his anger over the last two Terminator movies on Cable. The man is clearly in no condition to fight and his elaborate plan has been shot to shit. He still maintains that he's not the bad guy and he's doing this for a reason. The remarkable thing is he doesn't come off as having lost his fucking mind, which could have easily happened here. Thankfully, Loeb was able to resist the temptation far better than I was when I stumbled in drunk to a massage parlor in Thailand.
The fight quickly becomes lopsided. The Avengers subdue Cable in a few panels of action with minimum effort. With his body more ravaged than Mike Tyson's face, he eventually subdues. Even if it was lopsided, Cable still showed some heart and given all the flashbacks and drama that show his journey over the past few issues it's hard not to feel bad for the guy. Usually, when someone is beat up by the Avengers it just makes you giddy like a baby at a topless bar. This isn't quite like that and Jeph Loeb does a good job of not only fleshing out the struggle, but showing Cable's inner thoughts as he struggles and ultimately fails.
When all is said and done, Cable is still alive but not in a very lively way to say the least. He's ravaged by the techno-organic virus and his ass has been spoon fed to him. So in another emotional moment, Cyclops and Hope commit to taking him back to Utopia. The Avengers agree, but under one condition. They get to keep all the fancy goodies Cable brought with him from the future. That's a pretty fucked up condition seeing as how these same goodies may only empower them if they end up proving Cable right in their endeavor to fuck up the world. But without much argument or even animosity for his wayward son's actions, Cyclops agrees. That's pretty much how they part ways. Hope and Cyclops get Cable. The Avengers get everything else. Fair trade? Fuck, only if you're Bill Belichek.
This scene presents a serious problem, the first in a series that has otherwise been problem free. Since the announcement of Avengers vs. X-men, this series has been billed as the prelude. For the most part, it has delivered. However, this scene seems to do nothing to add any tension between the X-men or the Avengers. That or it's just so damn subtle that even ten hits of acid couldn't heighten your senses enough to see it. These two teams are going to be fighting each other and this issue was poised to give them plenty of reasons. However, those reasons were unrealized and they somewhat diminish the impact of what could have been a very powerful scene.
Flaw or no flaw, Loeb does plenty to make up for it in the next scene. With Cable back on Utopia, Hope and Blaquesmith (who has basically been jerking off in the corner while everyone else fights it out) stand over Cable in a special infirmary chamber. He's still out of it and not coming out anytime soon because of the techno-organic virus. For Hope, that shit just isn't going to work. So in an act similar to many she's made in other recent comics (see Generation Hope and Uncanny X-men), she taps the power of a certain cosmic parrot to rid him of the virus. That's right, we get yet another Phoenix Force flare up from someone not named Jean Grey. It's a beautiful display and one that only further reinforces the notion that Hope is going to be to the Phoenix Force what Pamela Anderson is to silicone. Their fates are inseparably entwined.
Cable is okay and no longer looking like he was jerked off on by the Terminator. But rather than enjoy this moment with his adopted daughter, he telepathically reaches out to Cyclops (which he couldn't do earlier because of the techno-organic virus) to show him the shitty future he came from. This way he can explain to his father what he was doing and why he was doing it. Since Cyclops actually watched Hope manifest the Phoenix, he sees first hand the kind of shit they're dealing with. As someone who has been royally fucked by the Phoenix Force in ways I can't make enough dick or sodomy jokes about, he has more incentive than anyone to do something about it. So in the end Cable succeeds in his mission on some levels. However, the onus is now on Cyclops to protect Hope and if shit goes as Cable says and the Avengers decide to fuck their shit up, Cyclops will make sure he's on the front line.
The impact of this series and the implications are pretty fucking awesome. Cable is back. He didn't die again, which is somewhat surprising because so much of this series seemed to indicate that he was returning just for a quick reunion with Hope before biting it again. Instead, he underwent a major transformation. The techno-organic virus that has been part of his character since Regan was president is now gone. While he didn't exactly succeed in his mission, he did convey a very important message to Cyclops. He showed him what will happen if Hope doesn't play her role as messiah or if someone like the Avengers come along and fuck it up. This shows just what's at steak for the X-men during the Avengers vs. X-men conflict. Yeah, we all kind of knew it's a big deal when the Phoenix Force comes to take a shit on your world, but the X-men didn't know that. They're just finding out and if the Avengers oppose them, they know they can't afford to be friendly.
There's a lot of potential here. Cable is back. Hope has her father back. She's also using the Phoenix more liberally than Snooki at a tanning beds. Loeb has effectively succeeded in bringing Cable back into Marvel comics and doing it in a way that makes him different than he was before. However, if part of his goal was to draw some of the battle lines for Avengers vs. X-men, he wasn't so successful. There was a chance to add a little more tension between the X-men and the Avengers so that they would be more comfortable beating each other up. That chance wasn't realized. Cyclops saved the Avengers, who in turn neutralized Cable and took all the tech on his ship in the process. Aside from Wolverine being a douche, not much else was made of it. Maybe some tension was implied, but Loeb's poor sense of subtlety made it feel like an underwhelming resolution at least in that context.
Now I loved this issue. I loved this series. Jeph Loeb has officially done something awesome again. I thought I would never live to see the day. Granted, I never think I'm going to see next weekend at times so I guess that's not saying much. But it's still an accomplishment. X-Sanction is a damn good series. The action is as solid as you would expect in a Jeph Loeb comic. There's heart and drama with the flashbacks and Cable's reflections on his daughter. There's connection between the events in this series and what's to come with Avengers vs. X-men. The only shortcoming is that those connections were underwhelming in some areas. It wasn't too egregious. If I was going to score X-Sanction #4 on an overly precise level, I would give it a 4.75 out of 5. But I think that brings up too many nightmares of 8th grade math. So I give this comic a 4.5 out of 5. It had all the right elements, but the ending just didn't go far enough in terms of playing up the tension between the Avengers and the X-men. Since this was billed as a prelude, I can't ignore that shortcoming and give it a perfect score. But if that shit doesn't bother you and you just like seeing Cable beat up the avengers and Hope doing yet another Jean Grey impression, you'll love everything about this book.
So that's it, Marvel. You've got your prelude shit done. Now bring on X-men vs. Avengers! Hurry like Rick James on a crack binge! On behalf of all Marvel fans and functioning drunks, we're ready! Nuff said.