Thursday, April 26, 2012
Uncanny X-men #11 - Reflections on Awesome
I have a very simple policy when it comes to filler. Unless it's part of a stripper's breast implants, I'm generally against it. Filler in comics is no different than the filler in the Chicken McNuggets served in McDonalds. You don't know where it comes from. You don't care to know either. And while the taste may not make you sick, it's more bland than Al Gore's facial expression. Big comic events tend to have a metric fuckton of filler. That's why you don't often see me review tie-ins on this blog. I'm sure some of them have great stories to tell, but in the grand scheme of things they're basically the guys in Star Trek with the red uniforms. They tend to be expendable, forgettable, and they never get you laid.
Since Avengers vs. X-men is shaping up to be the biggest Marvel event in a decade, it's impossible to avoid the filler that comes with tie-ins and what not. While I do plan on focusing primarily on the main 12-issue series, some of these tie-ins run through some of my favorite books so I can't avoid them anymore than I can avoid a wet T-shirt contest at a Mexican bar. And like a serving of Chicken McNuggets at McDonalds, I'll partake in these tie-ins/filler every now and then. I won't even need to be drunk at one a.m. with a bad case of the munchies. But there's reason to be hopeful about the Avengers vs. X-men tie-ins and it's not just because it has the potential to show more pages of the X-men and Avengers kicking each others' ass.
The first tie-in I reviewed was Jason Aaron's Wolverine and the X-men #9. It was a comic that expanded on a scene in Avengers vs. X-men #1 where Captain America paid Wolverine a visit. It didn't just add in some extra dialog or give Aaron another excuse to do scenes with Kid Gladiator being a douche. It actually told a compelling story that didn't feel like a tie-in. It's like finding a McNugget that was dipped between Jenna Jameson's breasts and submerged in chocolate. It gave me hope that future tie-ins would be better than history would lead us to believe.
This leads us to Kieron Gillen's first tie-in issue with Uncanny X-men #11. If ever a writer earned the benefit of the doubt (and a free lap dance from my sister), it's Gillen. He's made Uncanny X-men one of the top X-books on the market. Now like Jason Aaron, he takes a number of scenes right out of Avengers vs. X-men #1 and expands on them. Is it still filler? Well if it's awesome, who the fuck cares? Uncanny X-men #11 carefully weaves itself into the events of Avengers vs. X-men #1, showing Cyclops's and Emma's reaction to Hope's little Phoenix tantrum during her 'training.' With help from Dr. Nemesis, they find out that this wasn't your typical PMS-level Phoenix flare. This one actually sent out a signal that some very interested parties (namely the Avengers) would pick up on. It actually explains nicely how Cyclops was so prepared when the Avengers decided to kick diplomacy in the nuts and attack their ass in Avengers vs. X-men #2. And that's the mark of a good tie-in issue, filling plot wholes with the same efficiency as a giant tampon.
The issue then goes from filling in some holes from Avengers vs. X-men to expanding on what happened in the previous issue of Uncanny X-men. That's right. Gillen wasn't content to play off the main series. He actually thought it would be prudent to expand on his own series. It may sound obvious, but I can only assume that the sheer lack of such depth in previous tie-ins was simply a result of comic writers having shitty weed dealers. But I digress.
In the previous issue, the now imprisoned Unit requested to speak to Hope. It was implied at the end that he told her about the Phoenix Force, which would help explain how she seemed to know about it in Avengers vs. X-men #0 (I'm sorry, but continuity can be a beautiful thing so it's worthy pointing out). Now he goes on to give a lecture about destiny and choice. It sounds like he's telling her that she shouldn't give a damn what the other X-men think. She needs to choose her destiny in the end. But as soon as she leaves, he makes a snide remark about how he knows she'll have to make a sacrifice. He taught her one thing while believing the complete opposite. Put on a black robe and he's practically a Catholic priest.
It's an ominous hint that nicely connects the first scene. However, there was nothing ominous about the next scene. It essentially just replays what happened in Avengers vs. X-men #1 when Cyclops flexed his scrotal muscles and shot Captain freakin' America when he demanded that the X-men hand over their mutant messiah. The difference here is that the scene is being narrated by Namor. Okay, so the transition from Hope to Namor made about as much sense as Bernie Madoff's bank account. But it's still a compelling scene because it offers a little insight into why Namor is fighting alongside the X-men. Anyone who knows his history also knows he has far more experience fighting alongside the Avengers. Yet he sees the mutants as analogous to Atlantis, a small group on an isolated plot of land being oppressed by much larger forces. He doesn't mention that the promise of Emma Frost's pussy is keeping him there as well, but he does make clear that while he would prefer to go snorkeling with her he respects Cyclops too much NOT to fight by his side.
Namor quickly joins the battle as it unfolds between the Avengers and the X-men. As he draws some Avengers into the water, Colossus takes a dip as well. It's a somewhat smoother transition here because it picks up on the battle between Colossus and Red Hulk that was only left to the readers' imagination in Avengers vs. X-men #2. Since I'm low on acid, that shit pissed me off so I'm glad we got some more details regarding this battle between the Unstoppable Russian and the blowhard General who looks like a giant rectal wart. But aside from the big time slug fest, Colossus takes some time to do some narrating of his own. Gillen makes another connection to the previous issue where Colossus started showing concerns that he was becoming too unstable with the power of Cytorak. His insight is disturbingly delightful, like reading the journal of Kathey Griffin when she's on peyote. At first he seems to be holding back, but once Red Hulk pisses him off to a certain point he starts to flash some monster mojo that red skin and hulking muscles just can't compete with.
The story then picks up with Hope again, but it's another instance where the transition and the context leave you scratching your head like Chaz Bono at public restroom. Gillen does the same thing he did with Namor, taking a scene from Avengers vs. X-men #2 and expanding on it with his trademark inner monologs. This time Hope narrates the scene where she first flashed her Phoenix potential just as Wolverine was attempting to jam his adamantium appendages into her bowls. In addition to that making a good title for a gay porno, Hope offers some decent insight into what was going through her mind when she started rubbing elbows with that cosmic parrot. She reflects on the rush the power gives her. Wait...a redheaded mutant being overwhelmed by the rush offered by the Phoenix Force? Where have we seen that shit before? It doesn't help that Greg Land's artwork truly shows the extent to which Hope is a Jean Grey ripoff, but it nicely reflects the transformation she went through.
While Gillen's insight here was as enjoyable as can be expected, it didn't exactly fit with what happened in Avengers vs. X-men #2. Maybe I didn't read enough into the scene or maybe I was more drunk than I should've been when I read it, but Hope's demeanor in that issue was very different compared to what was shown here. She almost looks like she's a hooker trying to seduce some Arab oil sheik out of his weekly allowance in this. In Avengers vs. X-men #2 she looked more overwhelmed. It really doesn't seem to fit and it doesn't make clear whether Hope really understands what she's doing or if the Phoenix Force is just fucking with her like it does to all redheads.
The fight with Colossus and Red Hulk is a bit more basic so fortunately it's an isolated incident. It wasn't shown how the battle between Colossus and Red Hulk panned out. Again, this is the kind of shit readers don't like leaving to their imagination when they don't have enough good acid on hand. Gillen does a nice job here of showing Colossus's continued struggle with Cytorak. He also shows that while Red Hulk may not look as badass in the light of other monsters, he's still a full fledged general and you don't get to be a general without knowing a little strategy. Red Hulk pulls a rope-a-dope style move on Colossus, allowing him to pummel his ass until he starts damaging the support columns to Utopia. This is where Colossus shows that he's still capable of controlling his unstoppable nature and allows Red Hulk to beat his ass before he beats Utopia to a pulp. It's like admitting your dick is small when a douche-bag challenges you, but it shows that Colossus still has a sense of humility behind that unstoppable shell.
After word gets out that someone stopped the unstoppable Colossonaut, Cyclops goes into a "we're fucked" mode. Not only did one of their strongest fighters get beat, but they lost the mutant messiah. With the Avengers still understandably pissed, he's forced to try a different tactic. It involves contacting the X-men's PR person, Kate Kildare, that they hired shortly before the events of Schism. He has her issue a press release that essentially calls the Avengers fascists for storming onto their self-proclaimed country and demanding they hand over a girl that may be the key to burning the planet to a crisp. I'm not sure I got the memo where one press release is enough to turn public sentiment against Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but I'm pretty sure it's bullshit. Otherwise Rupert Murdoch would have been crowned emperor of the United States years ago.
This may be the start of a disturbing new trend and for once it doesn't involve my tastes in fetish porn. Marvel is actually churning out some high quality tie-ins with Avengers vs. X-men. You would think that an event built around the premise of the X-men beating up the Avengers wouldn't have much room for depth, but both Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen have essentially given the finger to traditional tie-ins and found a way to make them awesome. This issue follows the similar path established in Wolverine and the X-men #9. It takes some scenes from Avengers vs. X-men and expands on them. Gillen's inner monologs with characters have always been his strength. He really showed them off here with his take on Colossus, Hope, and Namor. It's like having an 11-inch cock. What's the good of having one if you can't whip it out and show it off?
While Gillen's knack for dialog is readily apparent, this issue is lacking in some areas. The events surrounding Hope when she bolted from Utopia in Avengers vs. X-men #2 seemed inconsistent. In the main comic she seemed less coherent. In this she seemed to make a conscious choice. It doesn't quite fit, but it doesn't change too much either. In addition the transition from scene to scene was a bit spotty. Some parts took place before the big clash in Avengers vs. X-men #2. Some took place after. There was no logical flow to them. It didn't tell the same coherent story that Wolverine and the X-men #9 told. It was still a solid expansion of sorts on the characters, but it just didn't fit together as well as it could have.
I can be pretty damn dogmatic in some things. Certain brands of beer are one of them. However, when it comes to tie-in comics being awesome I'm more than willing to change my beliefs. I'm not a creationist. I don't live in a world of willful ignorance and magical fairies. I can accept that tie-in issues can be just as awesome as the main event. Jason Aaron showed it. Now Kieron Gillen has reinforced it. This gives me hope that future Avengers vs. X-men tie-ins won't have to be overlooked. It also means I'll have to sell a few extra bags of weed to have enough money to buy all these new comics, but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I give Uncanny X-men #11 a 4 out of 5. I would have Cyclops's woman as well. I would also enjoy stabbing a blatant Jean Grey ripoff in the gut with adamantium claws. When your that much in tuned to a comic, it doesn't mean dick if it's a tie-in issue. Nuff said!