Thursday, May 24, 2012
Astonishing X-men #50 - Holy Matrimony of Awesome
I'm a man of simple tastes. Give me a comic book, a bag of weed, and a bottle of whiskey and I can entertain myself for a week. I feel a certain sense of pity for the miserable assholes who make a living getting pissed off about random shit. Zealous religious nuts, right-wing politicians, overly politically correct liberals, and anyone that ever had a job at Fox News are among the elite in this special brand of douche-baggery. Rush Limbauh, Glenn Beck, and Pat Robertson are all men that if they existed in comics would be Lex Luthor's prison bitch. That leads me directly to an issue that has gotten these humorless fucks more worked up than a monkey in a banana factory, gay marriage.
Now I consider myself a friend, ally, and enabler of the gay community. Homosexuals are the latest boogymen and booywomen that have haunted the closets of right-wingers since racism stopped being cool. Hell, sex between gays wasn't made legal in the United States until fucking 2003. So of course when gay couples ask for the right to cut back on having sex with their lover and get on their insurance plan, the men and women who make their living being pissed off at minorities fought tooth and nail to oppose it at every turn. Hell, even our last President supported a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, but that was the same president that thought it was a good idea to invade a country on intelligence that was as credible as the messages carved in the bathroom of a highway rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike. So his position on any issue is beyond fucked. Yet still Fox News and everyone who just can't wrap their heads around two guys bumping uglies insist on dedicating time and energy to acting like douche-bags and denying gays their basic human rights.
This is where I actually applaud Marvel and DC because they're willing to give the finger to the Glenn Becks and Pat Robertsons of the world that insist on following the whims of a sex-hating desert god. They already piss these assholes off regularly by showing ridiculously hot men and women dressing in overly revealing costumes and carrying out questionable acts of heroics that may or may not corrupt the youth of a nation. So why not piss them off a little more by throwing homosexuality up their asses? Okay, maybe that's a poor choice of words, but you get the idea. Archie comics already made headlines by introducing a gay character and then marrying him off. DC Comics also recently waved their dicks in the face of the Christian Right when they announced that the New 52 would result in a prominent character becoming gay. Not to be outdone, Marvel has been hinting that another wedding was in the works for the Marvel universe. Never mind the fact that marriages in their comics tend to end very badly, so much so that deals with the devil are deemed viable alternatives. It's still a big deal and wouldn't you know it? It's a gay wedding! Suck on that Rush Limbauh! I mean, after you're finished sucking on your prescription pain pills.
It was one of the least surprising revelations Marvel has done since revealing that Emma Frost's tits were fake. It spins directly out of the events that have been unfolding in Astonishing X-men, a series that was recently taken over by Marjorie Liu. She's been telling a story that involves Northstar moving in with his long time boy toy, Kyle, while a number of other X-men get caught up in a battle against someone who gets their kicks out of mind-fucking people. In the previous issue, Northstar joined Wolverine, Gambit, Karma, Warbird, Iceman, and Cecellia Reyes in a battle against Chimera. They found out that she was being mind controlled and while they were off searching for the source, Northstar and Kyle shared a tender moment. It could have been much sweeter, but then Karma had to go and cross paths with the crazy bitch behind the mind-fucking. It promised to be a major buzz-kill for any tender moment.
Astonishing X-men #50 begins by continuing a story that's not quite as likely to make Rick Santorum want to puke. In the previous issue, the X-men discovered a GPS tracker on one of the mercenaries that tried to repave a New York City street with their bones. The story picks up with them following the source of the signal to an old complex owned by the fine folk at Hatchi Tech, Inc, makers of creepy abandoned buildings with built in prison cells. Although I bet Goldman Sachs have nicer prisons, this revelation doesn't answer the more pressing questions like who thought it was a good idea to mind-fuck some mercenaries into randomly attacking? Along the way, Northstar starts talking about his relationship woes with Kyle and with Gambit no less. Taking relationship advice from Gambit is like taking driving lessons from Lindsey Lohan. Iceman rightly points that out and tells him he needs to find a more efficient way of dealing with relationship woes.
It turns out that finding answers about a creepy old factory/prison is slightly easier than dealing with relationship woes. Plus, you get to interact with a hot redhead. Fuck if that isn't the most unfair concept since the cancellation of Firefly. But Wolverine (or at leas this penis) has that kind of reach. When he wants more information on Hatchi Tech, he calls up a master spy with a great rack who was also written by Marjorie Liu if you can believe that. Black Widow is among the few redheads that can make Wolverine's scrotum shrivel. She agrees to meet with Wolverine in a restaurant and look pretty fucking hot in the process. Being a master spy, she like the Google of shady intel and she offers plenty in this instance. Hatchi was once a supplier of the more mundane products for shield like bullets, computers, and skin-tight outfits that show off boobs in just the right way. But then their owner, Susan Hatchi, became ill and/or dropped off the face of the Earth. In the Marvel Universe that's usually code for going evil or losing your fucking mind or both. She offers Wolverine some extra intel to follow the trail she left behind. Then Warbird comes barging in demanding that he either get her to another fight or let her sample the buffet. Neither the enemy or the buffet stands a chance.
While Wolverine is being a good X-men and following up leads, Northstar is trying to be a good boyfriend and patch things up with Kyle. Even though they shared a tender moment in the last issue, they're a long ways away from being the gay equivalent of Reed and Sue Richards. Kyle spends a good deal of time bitching about how he can't get internet in his apartment and can't run his business. In this day and age where internet is so important, that's a perfectly valid reason to be an ass to your lover. But Northstar tries to go the extra mile to show Kyle that he loves his perfectly sculpted and cleanly shaven ass. He flat out proposes to him in the middle of a busy park. The audience is either captivated or disgusted, depending on which presidential candidate they gave money to.
Now this is build as an emotional moment and it is for the most part, but the exchange between Kyle and Northstar is just really cliched here. It's the whole "I feel left out" vs the "I love you and I want to make it work" ordeal that has come up with straight couples. Hell, I think it may have been copied and pasted from an argument that Peter Parker and Mary Jane had (pre-devil deal of course). Maybe that was the point, to make it feel like a normal relationship. That's all well and good, but it certainly didn't feel unique. For Marjorie Liu, who has shown a talent for giving characters a great voice like she did in X-23, it's disappointing even if it does get the right message across. Northstar loves Kyle and wants to be serious with him. He's just taking it way too fucking far and thinking with the wrong head.
Perhaps that's why Kyle flat out said no. It made for a painfully awkward moment, but not quite as awkward when Kyle found himself in the cross hairs of a mysterious villain. It's exactly as cliched as it sounds. For something that was billed as such a landmark moment for Marvel, it really didn't feel that unique. There's not one line between them that's memorable and when you're telling a love story, that's going to kill one too many pussy boners. It leads to a sad moment, but one that really doesn't feel all that unexpected. Even if you're not into gay romance, it's a moment that should have a greater impact than it does. Even with the help of a few extra joints, you just can't feel like this is any different than the same love stories we've been fed since we first realized that being alone sucks our genitals hate us if we neglect them.
While the romance between Nothstar and Kyle was cliched yet meaningful, the ongoing mystery with Hitachi doesn't do much better. Wolverine leads Warbird, Iceman, and Gambit to a stereotypical abandoned warehouse. Seriously, what is it about warehouses that they have to be the site if every fucking conflict in every fucking comic? I don't mind comics that stick to formulas, but even if you have the best strain of weed you get sick of it after a while. It's pretty standard here. They encounter another Marauder. This time it's Blockbuster and he's more fucked than the video store he's named after. It's only a short fight. Warbird stabs his back and he actually seemed grateful. It was clear that whatever fucked up Chimura's mind in the last issue was in the process of sodomizing his.
Since someone tried to kill them, the X-men know they're on the right track. So they do the same dumb thing every hero does in this situation and barge right into the creepy abandoned warehouse. This leads them to make a very grim discovery. The Marauders apparently were forced to slaughter each other, presumably while someone watched with popcorn, a bottle of lube, and no pants. It's a grim sight, but one the X-men should be used to in their line of work. They should also be used to evil masterminds sneaking up on them, but again that's what happens when you go barging into a creepy warehouse. You either get attacked or mind fucked. In this case it's the latter. We don't see the source, but it's clear that whoever was behind the Marauders cage match just wasn't content forcing regular superpowered mercenaries to beat each other up. He/she wants to graduate to X-men and like most cliched plots, you can figure out where it goes from there.
It puts Northstar right in the line of fire. He might as well have camped out with the Westboro Baptist Church in a dark alley because when he finds out that Kyle has been abducted, he flies towards his fellow X-men with the urgency of Donald Trump to a toupee clearance sale. Along the way he continues whining about how he fucked things up with Kyle and not in a good way. It's still pretty cliched, but it does get the right message across that he's in a very emotional state. This only worsens when he arrives to find that Iceman is now being mind-controlled and doing his best impression of a giant ice cockroach that listened to one too many Jerry Falwell sermons. Northstar manages to knock some sense into him, but he's still no closer to saving Kyle.
This is where the cliches end and the storytelling talents of Marjorie Liu converge. For the past few issues, there have been brief shots of the near future showing Northstar running for his life while the X-men chase him. And it's not because he put a webcam in their toilets either. We now know why and we know the reason behind it. This helps tie the overall arc together in a way that goes a long ways towards making up for the cliches. It's always a great feeling when the elements of an arc fit together so nicely. It's like coming home and finding a beautiful naked women sitting on your couch with a fresh back of weed in both hands and this won't make you forget where you put your keys.
Once again, I applaud any piece of work that upsets uptight religious zealots or would be banned from the libraries at Liberty University. This issue certainly did that, treating a homosexual relationship with the same depth and passion as a heterosexual relationship. Somewhere out there a Catholic priest is weeping, Rick Santorum is dry heaving over his toilet, and Ricky Martin is shaking his hips with a little extra passion. However, pissing off bigoted assholes who need to get laid and smoke a joint is not enough to make a comic awesome. This issue did a good job of moving the story forward and following a logical progression from the events of the previous two issues. It also did a nice job of linking up the flash-forward scenes that were littered in the previous two issues to the end of this issue. However, it's the finer details that fell short.
The biggest issue in this comic wasn't that it offended bible thumpers. It was that too much of it was cliched. The abandoned factories were cliched settings. The emotional drama with Northstar and Kyle were cliched. There was no unique feeling to this issue. It felt as though you could cut and paste the setting and the sappy parts into other comics and it would still make sense. Marjorie Liu is usually very good at providing a special voice to her books. This was one instance where that voice was too bland. It doesn't bring the comic down completely or even halfway. It just makes it too easily forgettable.
Now I don't want to understate the important milestone this represents for Marvel. Taking on gay marriage at time when the talking heads of the political world are shitting themselves is a risky proposition and for the most part, it's handled nicely in this issue. It could have been handled better, but it still has the right impact. It may not undo the shitty ballot initiatives in North Carolina, but it does build around a solid story that still has the potential to finish strong once all the pieces are in place. Until then, I give Astonishing X-men #50 a 3.5 out of 5. Gay rights supporters, bigot haters, and fans of the Bravo network should rejoice! Marvel has joined your fight and what better ally to have than the same people that made their own messiah character not named after a Jewish carpenter? Nuff said!