Sunday, May 27, 2012
Avengers vs. X-men VS #2 - Rumbles, Jungles, and Latverian Stumbles
Whenever I go to see a Michael Bay movie, I never go in with lofty expectations of deep philosophical insight or profound character development. That would be like going into a crack house and expecting to find model Mormon. Comic companies like Marvel and DC are in the business of making their comics seem like they're on the same level of Homeric epics. Rarely will they ever market a comic with the intent of labeling it mindless, unapologetic action porn. Even if it fits that definition to the point where Webster threatens to sue them for improper word association, they'll avoid that label. So it was quite surprising when in the course of hyping up Avengers vs. X-men that Marvel flat out admitted that the Avengers vs. X-men VS series was pretty much just all action and no plot.
In many ways I actually applauded Marvel's admission. For once they don't even try to beat around the bush. They admit like anyone who has ever smoked a few joints on a word day that sometimes you don't want epic stories. You just want some pretty pictures that make you smile and maybe a little horny, depending on how shallow the writers and artists may be. For that very reason, I haven't read any of the VS titles with the expectation that I'll have my mind blown like the first time I watched the Matrix while stoned. It's also the reason why I haven't reviewed any of the titles yet. There's not much to review. It's like a WWE wrestling match. Two fighters enter the ring, they put on a scripted show, and beat the living shit out of each other. Yet it's not completely meaningless. These battles do actually have a purpose. They expand on the battles that the main series has established and adds some glorious detail to a battle so that those among us that have killed too many brain cells need not use our imaginations.
With all this in mind, I think it's only appropriate that I at least try to review one VS title. Just like I've reviewed an Avengers title, it's important that I try to capture the breadth of the Avengers vs. X-men event during what few hours of sobriety I can afford. There is a story to be told here...a mindless, apologetically shallow story, but a story none the less. Avengers vs. X-men VS #2 follows battles that emerged after the Avengers and the X-men split to butt heads in five different locales in search of a red-haired, green eyed Phoenix wielder NOT named Jean Grey. Those locales included exotic places like the Savage Land and Latveria. And wouldn't you know it? That's where Avengers vs. X-men #2 takes place!
The first major battle of Avengers vs. X-men VS #2 isn't the kind of epic battle you would get into fist fights over in a school yard. I remember how me and my stoner buddies would often argue over who would best be able to beat up Captain America in a bar fight. Characters like Thing, Wolverine, Rogue, Colossus, or Juggernaut often came up. We would need an extra special strain of weed to wonder how Cap would fare against Gambit, an unapologetic metrosexual who has as much patriotism as an investment banker has sympathy. But in the underbelly of the Savage Land, that's where these two meet up and start butting heads. They're supposed to be looking for Hope (the Jean Grey ripoff and not the concept), but Gambit decides that he might get more pussy if he can beat up an American Icon. Go figure.
Gambit tries to strike the first blow, offering little of his usual wit and humor. It seems as though if he's not fighting someone he wants to fuck, he's just not all that charming. If nothing else, he's still flashy. When Captain America responds by throwing his shield, Gambit does his thing and charges it up. A shield made out of rare inorganic metal makes quite a boom, but like the IRS it's impossible to take Captain America with sheer defiance. Despite not having his shield, Captain America lays into this smooth-talking, womanizing, thief in a way that would give any card-carrying republican a boner. He even goes so far as to break Gambit's bow staff. It basically the same as taking away a fat kid's half-eaten chocolate bar. It's messy and doesn't send much of a message.
You know what does send a message? Blowing up a man's inorganic shirt. Even for a womanizing, Cajun, metrosexual that's pretty badass. But if the Nazi's couldn't blow up Captain America, what makes you think Gambit ever stood a chance. Now when your shirt usually blows up, that kind of shit usually leaves your ears ringing and a good chunk of your flesh in another zip code. Captain America is a super-soldier, not a fucking tank. Yet he looks no more wounded than the designated driver for a frat party. I know these versus titles are supposed to be light on plot, but that's not an excuse for completely forgetting the limitations of one of the most iconic characters in comics or sparing us loyal readers some glorious blood.
As is often the case when you attack America, you usually get your ass kicked. Captain America carries on this proud tradition that George W. Bush took way too far and lays Gambit out with one good punch to that pretty boy face of his. I admit it's a pretty satisfying. Not because I get patriotic when I'm semi-sober, but because the guys with the accents always got more pussy than I did in college. Plus, there was actually a little blood this time. That's right. A punch from Captain America spilled more blood than having a fucking shirt blow up. No, it makes no fucking sense. It doesn't completely discredit a book that is billed as being light on plot, but it's still a lack of attention to detail. I'm willing to overlook it and just take a few more shots of vodka, but it's still no excuse.
So the battle between Captain America and Gambit was satisfying enough. It essentially drew out the battle while even finding a way to link things up with what would later happen in Avengers vs. X-men #4 when Captain America re-summons the Avengers to find Hope. It's a very weak tie-in that somehow found time for him to get a new shirt, but it does show effort on Marvel's part and unlike my asshole English teacher I do give credit for effort. It may not have the kind of impact that the old Thor vs. Hulk battles have, but at least it's satisfying and it felt like a fair enough fight. So for the second battle, we would hope that it stay fair. Right?
Again, channeling my old English teacher I say your ass is wrong and you get slapped across the wrist with a ruler and an extra page of homework. Apparently, Marvel thinks fair fights are more out of style than bell bottoms and tie-dye T-shirts. They decide to pit Spider-Man, the wise-cracking everyman who sold his marriage to the devil, against Colossus/Juggernaut, who sold his soul to a demon so his already messed up sister wouldn't have to. It's every bit as unfair as it sounds and yet Colossus is still the more sympathetic character.
This battle doesn't even pretend to be fair, logical, or even coherent. Spider-Man doesn't even make many wise-cracks. He just talks while trying to fight someone imbued with unstoppable power. It sounds like it should be more entertaining, but it isn't. Spider-Man just tries to frustrate Colossus by throwing webs at him and punching him in the back, but he might as well be pissing into the ocean at high tide. It's not going to change a damn thing. At no point is there any sense that Colossus is in danger of being defeated, but the sadder part is there's really no sense that Spider-Man will get too roughed up either.
Now that's not to say he doesn't take a few shots. After getting webbed up a bit, Colossus shows off his unstoppable strength by throwing Spider-Man around like the pesky arachnid he is. Somewhere out there, Mephisto is masturbating furiously. Yet still, you don't really get the sense that Spider-Man is in any danger. Even if you know the fight is unfair, Marvel will never let one of their top cash-cows get too hurt. Especially when he has movie coming out in a few months (okay, it's a reboot, but still a movie). Yet it's not completely ill-conceived. At one point when he's roughing Spider-Man up, Colossus flat out tells him to get away before the power goes to his head. It implies that he's actually holding back, which would help make some sense of the cheesy nature of this fight. But that struggle or that threat is less explored than Tim Tebow's scrotum. So it's flashy, but still boring.
The battle really doesn't play out as smoothly as the battle between Gambit and Captain America. In fact, there isn't even a real winner this time. Just like the Captain America fight, they all get word that Hope has been found and they need to make like a hockey team and get the puck to the moon. Again, it's a nice way to tie the events of this issue into the events of what happened in Avengers vs. X-men #4. But Spider-Man just walks away after word gets out. He doesn't even say anything memorable in the process. It couldn't be more forgettable if it came with a free joint. So while it does fit into the larger Avengers vs. X-men story, it still leaves much to be desired.
I'm not going to pretend like there was a narrow margin for error in this series. Marvel did not market this book as such and I'm not going to hold it to a different standard. I may be a drunk, but I'm a fair drunk. The Avengers vs. X-men VS series is exactly what Marvel made it out to be. It's a handful of pages that's just pure fighting. It's like a compilation porno with none of the annoying plots and just pure fucking. It caters to a certain segment of fans and is painfully shallow, but it gets the job done. Sometimes you're just not in the mood to think. You just want to be entertained and that's what Avenger vs. X-men VS #2 did to an extent.
However, while the theme of this series was largely maintained, the choice of battles and the way they played out certainly left plenty to be desired. When you have a series that's just fight scenes, you have plenty of incentive to make those fight scenes memorable and awesome. Battles like Cyclops and Wolverine during Schism or even Wolverine and Captain America in Avengers vs. X-men #3 show that even mindless action can be made more awesome by having some depth behind it. However, there wasn't much depth or purpose behind Gambit fighting Captain America or Spider-Man fighting Colossus. I'm not saying there needed to be a lot of plot, but the battles left something to be desired. While I think the fight with Captain America and Gambit played out nicely in terms of detail, it wasn't that much of a spectacle. The battle between Spider-Man and Colossus was even more disappointing. Not because of the lack of spectacle, but mostly because it just seemed mismatched. It was hard to imagine it panning out in a surprising way. It's not even a fight you would bet on in Vegas, even after someone spiked your vodka. It was flashy, but not blinding.
Overall, Avengers vs. X-men VS #2 offered plenty of enjoyable moments, at least partially. If you're willing to overlook the poor choice in match-ups, the Captain America and Gambit fight is plenty satisfying. The battle against Colossus and Spider-Man, however, will probably leave you rolling your eyes in the same way you do every time you hear Newt Gingrich give a speech on family values. It may or may not be a book worth getting. There are probably other match-ups in the VS titles that are far more appealing and you might be better off giving those a shot. I give Avengers vs. X-men VS #2 a 3 out of 5. No, it's not going to blow you away. Yes, it will entertain you. No, it won't win you any bar bets. Yet it's still nice to give my brain cells a rest in reading comics. Gives me more of them to kill later on! Nuff said.