Sunday, May 6, 2012
X-men #28 - Invading Awesome
I try not to trust my senses too much. When you've killed as many brain cells as I have with acid, weed, and bar fights you didn't win you learn not to trust the big-titted woman with the blue skin, green eyes, and three tits eying you on the other side of the bar. You just assume someone slipped something into your booze, shrug it off, and go back to hitting on the jukebox. In the Marvel universe, I would be a shape-shifter's worst nightmare. I'm not saying I would be able to bone Mystique (although that would be on my to-do list). I'm just saying I would be more suspicious than your average Joe.
In Victor Gischler's adjectiveless X-men, Utopia's official security team has to be suspicious. Hell, they have to be more paranoid than a coke-head in withdrawal that listens to Glenn Beck. They're just coming off a pretty nasty blow. They lost Jubilee to a group of handsome vampires that look nothing like Twilight fans. In that battle they got their asses kicked. Jubilee ended up saving herself and then decided she would do better hanging out with other vampires than protecting a mutant island that was just going to get attacked by the Avengers later on. So Storm, Warpath, Domino, and the rest of the security team have had their pride and their resolve damaged. It made for a somewhat solemn issue, but unlike a massage parlor in Bangkok not every issue is going to have a happy ending.
So without hesitation, I still give adjectiveless X-men a shot. X-men #28 comes out with a story that once again doesn't tie into Avengers vs. X-men or anything else that is going on with the other X-books for that matter. It's a story that actually does what we were told from the beginning this series would do which is have the X-men interact with other members of the Marvel universe. But this isn't the kind of interaction that makes for good hand-holding and circle jerks.
Pixie, one of the X-men's younger members who still has a nasty habit of getting herself into trouble (and occasionally losing her soul). For reasons not all that clear, she's in New York City being led by a creepy-looking guy at gunpoint. But he's not looking to lure her into a windowless van with the promise of candy and puppies. He wants her to teleport him into the Baxter Building, home of the Future Foundation. This naturally gets Reed Richard's attention, who quickly finds out that said creepy guy with a gun is actually a Skrull. Okay, so maybe Pixie is safer with a Skrull than she is the guy with the van, but you get the idea.
The FF make quick work of the asshole Skrull that needs teenage girls to do his dirty work. Shortly after he's subdued, the X-men's security team arrive. They're understandably upset that one of Utopia's citizens was held at gunpoint by an alien. In Pixie's defense, the Skrull claimed he had a hostage in the form of a little boy that he would shoot if she didn't help him. This would have been a good defense if Pixie didn't stop to consider that maybe that hostage was a Skrull too. I get that some teenage girls can be pretty ditzy, but when you're dealing with alien shape-shifters you would think that would be reason to be a bit more cautious. Maybe Pixie should ditch the Twilight movies and start watching more slasher flicks.
The security team takes Pixie and the Skrull who used her away. They claim to be in a hurry and don't have time to sit around and listen to the Reed Richards make jokes about quantum physics. But after they leave, Gischler throws in a twist that probably shouldn't surprise anyone who has ever read a comic with the Skrulls. Just after the security team leaves, they arrive again. No, that's not just the peyote talking. That X-men security team that showed up earlier, that wasn't them. Those assholes were yet more Skrulls. Even if it's expected, it's still a pretty satisfying twist and one Gischler handles nicely. Unfortunately for Pixie, she's too ditzy to realize. It's only when they drag her to some special secure archives that she starts to notice. When she does, it's too late. A ditzy teenage girl against several angry Skrulls? It would be more fair to pit a Navy SEAL against a drunk New York Jets fan.
However, the Skrulls aren't just using Pixie because aliens are on a mission to probe pretty teenage girls (not unlike college frat boys). These Skrulls are leftovers from Marvel's big Secret Invasion event a few years ago, which makes for some nice continuity in a series that hasn't always fit into the larger Marvel landscape. They weren't marooned or anything that tragic. They're just a bunch of pussies. When they saw that their side was losing, they said "Fuck this, I'm going to go mutilate some cattle. Later bitches!" Now they want to go home. I guess they ran out of cattle to mutilate and to do that they need to find some confiscated Skrull tech that will allow them to access a hidden ship that can take them home. And they're relying on the lead Skrull to make it so they weren't cowards in the eyes of their species, which is every bit as questionable as it sounds mind you.
It may not seem like the kind of alien threat that the Marvel universe usually faces, but that's probably a good thing. Having a group of Skrulls that actually didn't stick around to get their asses kicked in Secret Invasion is a good concept, one that makes you wonder why a story like this wasn't told earlier. But seeing as how my memory is only as good as the brain cells I haven't killed yet, I'm okay with that. It adds an extra bit of drama that you wouldn't expect from a plot that revolves around aliens kidnapping a cute teenage girl.
While Pixie does express some kind level of sympathy for them, that doesn't stop them from tying her up and finding the gizmo they're looking for. Lucky for her, other more mature heroes are smart enough not to have sympathy for Skrulls. One of them is Spider-Man, who tends to notice when a bunch of shape-shifting aliens are trying to steal confiscated tech. He comes in and starts beating up the Skrulls in a way that only somewhat makes you forget that this is the same asshole that sold his marriage to the fucking devil. It's still pretty satisfying if you enjoy seeing ugly aliens getting punished for fucking with cute girls.
These cowardly Skrulls don't put up much of a fight, much like they did in Secret Invasion. They end up getting their asses knocked out a window, but for reasons Pixie still hasn't quite learned she goes out of her way to save them and still says she wants to help them. The Skrulls are understandably dubious of any girl they went out of their way to abduct and use as a hostage. They ignore her calls for understanding and Spider-Man's inclination to kick their asses even more. They still got what they wanted from the archive. Being the cowards they are, they need to take the easy way out.
For them, the easy way involves using that little gizmo of theirs. This quickly fucks up the situation like a Tijuana crack whore. The streets of New York start to rumble and people start shitting themselves. It's the perfect time for the FF and the X-men's security team to show up and remind Pixie that when dealing with Skrulls, sympathy is something you should leave at the door along with your trust. It quickly becomes chaotic and forces the X-men and FF to start protecting the civilians. The Skrulls, still playing the cowardice card, take a few hostages along the way in an effort to make their escape easier. They may not be the most cunning aliens in comics, but you have to admit they are determined to get the fuck off this planet.
It turns out that gizmo did exactly what they wanted it to do. It activated a ship that had been dormant under the streets of New York City. Wait, how the fuck did a ship go unnoticed in the underground of New York City? Wouldn't some homeless guy, mutant rat, or subway worker have noticed that shit? Well fuck me with the details, it's there. And when it rises to the surface, it also reveals another surprise. The ship had a few nasty looking weapons on board. For a bunch of Skrulls that have to rely on deception and hostage taking, they need something badass to save whatever it is they consider their balls. It's a dick move, but fuck if it isn't effective.
While I may not trust my senses as much as I should, I do trust a good comic when I see it. Victor Gischler's adjectiveless X-men has been somewhat inconsistent, but it does manage to deliver from time to time. It doesn't deliver enough to make you foam at the mouth every week a new issue is supposed to come out, but it delivers enough to keep you interested. While the last issue was somewhat disappointing, this issue hits all the right notes. It's a solid issue that gets back to the roots of this series, which was billed from the beginning as something that would get the X-men involved with other major players in the Marvel universe. This issue also took on some fresh angles, namely following the journey of a teenage girl who is still fucking up in her chosen career. Whether it's a superhero or an underpaid waitress at Hooters, a young girl should expect to be fucked up and tricked from time to time. Pixie is just lucky it didn't end with her panties being shown on the internet.
I enjoyed this issue. It was definitely an upgrade from the previous issue and did a good job of not only getting other Marvel heroes involved, but also playing with all the deceptive possibilities of using Skrulls. Now since I'm already as paranoid as any drunk, I wasn't too surprised when the Skrulls pulled a double take with Pixie. But I imagine fans out there who actually read comics sober would find it to be a pretty interesting twist. The only part that's lacking here is the poor setup. It just begins with Pixie in New York and offers no explanation. There's also no reaction among the X-men over Jubilee's departure. There's really no flow from the previous issue to this issue. It makes it feel somewhat abrupt, but perhaps that's for the better. If you didn't like seeing Jubilee leave, perhaps it's best not to have the issue dwell on it.
Victor Gischler continues to move this series along despite having to do so in the midst of a big motherfucking event in Avengers vs. X-men. It's like trying to win a farting contest on free bean burritos night at a bar. You're just not going to stand out. Yet if you're able to tear your ass away from Avengers vs. X-men long enough or just want a more basic story, this issue will deliver and deliver quite effectively. I give X-men #28 a 4 out of 5. Pixie has some harsh lessons to learn, chief among them are if aliens are big enough assholes to hold you at gunpoint so they can break into a high tech facility then maybe you shouldn't sympathize with them. Just be glad she didn't learn this lesson at her first college frat party by accepting a drink from the guy claiming to be pre-med and offering free breast exams. Nuff said!