Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wolverine and the X-men #11 - Awesome Battles and Daddy Issues

When I get a burger at a burger joint, I like to stuff that burger with enough meat and toppings to feed a bulimic sumo wrestler. By the same token, when I read a comic that's part of a major event I want it to be akin to an extra layer of cheese and/or hot sauce on said burger. The main issues of the event, such as Avengers vs. X-men #4, are the meat patties of the vent. The tie-ins are the toppings. As such, they can never be as meaty or juicy as the burger and we shouldn't expect them to. But both toppings and tie-ins can be dangerous. Sometimes you don't know if what you're tasting is ketchup or the result of the chef spitting on and then rubbing his dick between the buns. In my experience most of of the tie-ins are akin to either an extra leaf of lettuce or a glob of semen. I would go on, but I'm a little stoned right now and I'm making myself hungry.

The Avengers vs. X-men tie-ins have been well above whatever goodies you may find in a burger. Compared to recent events like Fear Itself and Secret Invasion, these tie-ins are like dipping the whole Avengers vs. X-men event in hot sauce. It hasn't been good enough to say it's being dipped in chocolate, but it's getting close! These tie-ins don't always add new elements to the Avengers vs. X-men story, but they do expand on details that were not sufficiently covered in the main story. Some fill in the blanks like how the hell Wolverine got from Antarctica to Westchester. Others just show Namor flaunting his panty-soaking manliness. Both have been wildly entertaining, but with the Phoenix almost arriving on Earth to take its cosmic dump on the planet where a red-haired, green eyed woman screwed it over.

Fittingly enough, some of the best tie-ins have come from the series that stars someone else who was screwed over by a red-haired, green eyed woman that would send his dick into fits of rage. Wolverine and the X-men has been a case study in how tie-ins should be done for big mega events. Jason Aaron has had everything from Wolverine and Captain America playing nice until Wolverine got thrown out of a plane to Wolverine and Cyclops reminding one another that the events of Schism still makes them want to beat each other senseless. Moreover, it has also shown that the loyalties of the Jean Grey Institute staff are not exclusive to Wolverine's whole I-hate-Cyclops agenda. Wolverine and the X-men #10 set the stage for a major test of loyalty among those seeking to help the X-men as they battle the Avengers. Wolverine and the X-men #11 is poised to show how loyalty can be more risky than getting a blowjob from a Tiger Shark.

The issue begins with a fairly small plot that was only lightly touched on in the previous issue. It involved Kid Gladiator, whose old man had the misfortune of going toe-to-toe with Dark Phoenix back in the day when Marvel didn't resort to shitty red haired, green eyed replacement characters. Since the Shi'ar are quite high on the Phoenix's shit list, Warbird sees fit to fly Kid Gladiator home just in case the Phoenix isn't satisfied just torching Earth. It means he can get away from all us puny Earthlings and go back to whatever spoiled narcissists do in the Shi'ar Empire. I imagine it's not unlike what Charlie Sheen does on a Saturday night. But Kid Gladiator isn't quite ready to just relax, do some space crack, and bang six alien chicks. There's a fight on Earth and fuck it if he's not compelled to stick around. So much to Warbird's dismay, Kid Gladiator ejects from the space ship that Warbird borrowed (ie stole) and heads back to Earth to partake in the fight. Yeah, he's a real douche-bag. But he's a loyal douche-bag and that makes him pretty awesome.

The battle Kid Gladiator is diving into head first was made a lot more hectic in the last issue when a number of the Wolverine's staff decided to join Cyclops's battle against the nosy Avengers that don't know how to handle red haired, green eyed women. Iceman, Angel, and Rachel each picked a battle and started kicking ass. Rachel got to mix it up in sunny Wakanda while Iceman and Angel went to Wundagore in hopes of kicking ass and scoring some Eastern European hash (that last part being implied). Now it seems like Iceman and Angel got the raw end at first, especially since Angel still doesn't remember shit about who he is and only a few issues ago actually believed in the divine more than Tim Tebow. But given Iceman's powers, a trip to a snowy mountain is probably like a weekend in Jamaica complete with complimentary weed. However, no matter what the locale, Iceman still gets the worse deal because he has to go up against Red Hulk. That would kill any vacation, no matter how much weed is involved.

Now to this point in the Avengers vs. X-men saga, there have been more than a few Jean Grey references and flashbacks. And to be brutally honest more so than I usually am, that shit is getting old and annoying. Marvel already went through the trouble of replacing Jean Grey in every meaningful way with Hope fucking Summers. Flashbacks are only a reminder of just how blatant a rip-off character she is. Yet that's what we get when we catch up with Wolverine and Hope on the X-jet, who are on route to an AIM facility. It's a scene ripped from between the panels of Avengers vs. X-men #4, which fills in the sizable gap of how Wolverine passed the time with Hope during the long flight without stabbing her. What we didn't need was recaps of the Dark Phoenix Saga where Jean begged Wolverine to kill her when she was going Dark Phoenix. That was a great moment in comics history that wasn't tainted until Brett Ratner took a fucking shit on it in X3. We don't need it being tainted any more in a story about a Jean Grey replacement character.

Yet as annoying as these flashbacks are, they do have some purpose. They follow along as Wolverine gives his little monologue gig at how Hope is fucking retarded if she thinks she can control the Phoenix. He tries to convince her otherwise, but she's a stubborn teenage girl. He has a better chance at teaching a headless chicken quantum physics. He keeps contemplating on how he's going to have to be the one that kills Hope when she inevitably goes batshit from the Phoenix. So he's probably somewhat relieved when a distraction comes along in the form of Shi'ar assassins crashing the X-jet in hopes of killing the new Phoenix host. For those of you newbies or those of you with damaged brains, these are the same assassins that slaughtered Jean Grey's family in the End of Greys arc. Yes, Marvel isn't content with keeping Jean Grey dead. They had to kill her whole fucking family. How many other characters get that treatment outside the Sopranos?

Conversely, flashbacks aren't needed to enjoy watching Iceman grow in ways that would make an awesome penis enlargement commercial and humble Red Hulk in a way he's probably not used to. Even Angel, the same Angel that's got more holes in his memory than a bowl of fruit loops, gets in on the action. There's only so far you can push a pacifists before he says "Fuck Ghandi! It's Ghengis Khan time, bitches!" Angel finally shows flashes of his former self in the way he lays out Hawkeye. Even other characters like Magneto get in on the act with Strange. Rachel also shows Iron Fist in Wakanda that no matter how strong your fist, it doesn't beat the mind of a psychic redhead with a nice rack. Hell, even the nice rack is sufficient at times, but unfortunately she doesn't get to use it in this battle. Her telekinesis is sufficient. Oh well, maybe she can save her rack for Thor. Pretty please, Mr. Aaron?

The battle against the Shi'ar assassins doesn't go nearly as well. The Shi'ar don't fuck around when the threat of the Phoenix looms over them. It was enough of an excuse to slaughter Jean Grey's whole (innocent) family. It's more than enough to warrant them playing extra rough with Hope. They're not trying to help or protect her like the Avengers or the X-men. They just want her Jean Grey-ish ass dead. Even though they're aliens, I can honestly say I know how they feel. But Hope fights back like any rebellious teenage girl, arming herself with Wolverine's claws and healing factor to both survive the crash of the X-jet and take on the assassins. Like other teenagers, she kicks and screams for a while. Then humility and cosmic justice catch up with her and she gets fucking gutted. Since that's exactly what Wolverine tried to do in Avengers vs. X-men #2, it makes you wonder why the hell he was so pissed about it. Was it really that important that he be the one that kills Jean Grey's ripoff character? Actually, that's not all that improbable.

Well even if he did want to be the one that forever ended yet another horrendous Jean Grey rip-off, Hope showed that being stabbed in the gut is like kicking a grizzly in the balls. It only makes things worse. While it looks like she's about to go to rip-off character hell, she has another Phoenix Force flash. This time it's much more potent. And by potent I mean she uses it to beat the piss out of these family-killing assassins. It sounds good on the surface until you remember that she's still the fucking Phoenix. Wolverine seems to understand this and has another shitty flashback with Jean Grey going Dark Phoenix. Yet even as he's poised to stab her again, he stops. I'm hoping he's since learned that stabbing a red haired, green eyed Phoenix wielder works about as well as an open window on a submarine. Hope does managed to get a hold of herself, but Wolverine appears to have learned something far more profound and he didn't even need LSD for it.

This is the point in the tie-in where Wolverine decides that he fucked up more than just a little when he opposed Captain America's plan to contain Hope. For once, stabbing something isn't going to fix the problem. In Avengers vs. X-men #4, he pretty much betrayed Hope by calling Captain America and telling him with probably the most humbled voice in history that he was right and he's ready to lead him to Hope. It's an important moment in Avengers vs. X-men. It was a sudden twist in the main series, but here we actually see the reason behind that twist and you know what? It makes perfect sense! Wolverine saw that he couldn't be the one that killed Hope. His poorly thought out plan to solve the Phoenix affair by stabbing it just wasn't going to work. And since he's still pissed off at Cyclops, his best bet is with the Avengers.

This fateful decision coincides with Kid Gladiator finally returning to join the battle. Being a kid who thinks things through about as well as horny monkey goes right for the Avengers heavy hitters, namely Red Hulk. After taking some early shots from Iceman, he got his red ass together and started pounding into Iceman's icy shell. Since this is a guy that bends metal with his pinkie toe, busting up ice isn't too big a stretch. But before Iceman gets too scattered, Kid Gladiator comes in and lays him out. Now Red Hulk has to go up against the arrogance of a teenage alien. That may be too much for even the Hulk's strength.

Kid Gladiator's return may have come just in time to aid the X-men, but not everyone is thrilled with his participation and I'm not just talking about Red Hulk's jaw. The reason Kid Gladiator was being rushed home was because his dad understands that the Phoenix is bad news for the Shi'ar and his dip-shit hormonal son is too young to understand that. So when he doesn't show up, the non-Kid Gladiator sees fit to fly all the way to Earth and give his son a good spanking. Since he doesn't know where to find him, he arrives at the Jean Grey Institute just as all the students are crowded around watching footage of the Avengers/X-men brawl (who the fuck is filming and how much free Apple shit does Marvel get from these product placements?). And like any parent whose kid broke curfew, he's pissed. Not quite as pissed as the father of my junior prom date was, but definitely in the same zip code at least.

It takes a special kind of talent to mix super-hero mash-ups, alien attacks, and daddy issues into one story. Jason Aaron's mind may or may not be more twisted than the last five Tim Burton movies, but it successfully delivers in making what appear to be ridiculous concepts and making them fit together in an orgasmic mesh of awesome. The theme of Avengers vs. X-men is pretty basic. A giant space bird is coming to take a cosmic shit on the Earth and the Avengers and X-men are pissing themselves trying to figure out how to stop it. This theme somewhat clashes with the more light-hearted, cartoonish themes that Aaron set up in Wolverine and the X-men, yet somehow he finds a way to make it fit. Kid Gladiator, his royally pissed off royal father, and battles with Red Hulk add a twist to the Avengers vs. X-men story that will make you smile more than it will foam at the mouth in anticipation. Fanboys with a heart condition or who do way too much blow owe Jason Aaron their thanks.

In terms of tie-ins, this issue does more than just give Marvel an excuse to do more mindless battles between heroes. That would be too much like Michael Bay buying just a few more cars to blow up in his next movie. This issue actually tells an important part of the story, namely how Wolverine came to decide that stabbing Hope to stop the Phoenix was a shitty plan and he might have been a bigger asshole than usual with how he handled the Captain America situation. There were a few holes though. The Dark Phoenix flashbacks were lousy reminders that Marvel sucks when it comes to red-haired, green eyed women that take on the Phoenix Force. In addition, the battles in Wakanda and Wundagore really offered little effect or plot to the overall story. They were like cut-scenes from the Avengers vs. X-men VS series. That's all well and good, but Aaron usually does a better job with tying together plots like this. They remind me too much of the poor cars that Michael Bay destroys.

Even if it didn't always fit together, every part of this issue was still sufficiently awesome. It is yet another worthy addition to the ongoing Avengers vs. X-men mythos. It is also another pleasant display of Marvel's newfound ability to craft tie-ins that are actually worth a fuck. I can't remember an event where the tie-ins added so much more value to the main event. Then again I can barely remember to lift the toilet seat with all the brain cells I've killed so maybe that's not saying much. However damaged my mind may be, I utilize what few brain cells I have left to grant Wolverine and the X-men #11 a 4.5 out of 5. Jason Aaron, you've made your point. You can write kick-ass tie-ins. Now stop trying to hypnotize me with that beard of yours and take my money for the next issue! Nuff said!


  1. If there's one thing about AvX that bugs me, it's that not only is the series shaping up to completely downplay all of Jean Grey's history as Phoenix solely into the Dark Phoenix Saga (I know it's still early, but if Jean appears in a positive light at any time before the end of this event I will be genuinely surprised), but now they also seem to be elevating Hope to be flat out better than her. When I read AvX and some of the tie-ins it seems like Jean is frequently portrayed as a pampered wuss who "just couldn't hack it" with the cosmic entity, and Hope is the strong badass (raised by Cable, pretty much the epitome of everything I didn't like about 90's comics) who will host the force and become the bestest Phoenix ever. Bleh.

    I know that a lot remains left in the story, like what the Scarlet Witch's role will be, but I fear being annoyed by the way this plays out. I hope Marvel proves me wrong.

  2. Adam, I know how you feel. It's one thing for a character that could have looked like anything to just steal Jean Grey's appearance. It's quite another for the writers to seemingly force Hope into Jean Grey's role as if a shitty replacement character can ever overshadow someone of Jean Grey's mythos. I'm expecting AvX to completely shit all over Jean Grey's character like Marvel always does. I'm willing to take that shit if the story turns out awesome.