Saturday, May 12, 2012
X-men Legacy #266 - Provoking Awesome
I tend to respect differences, no matter how fucked up they may be. It's not just because I'm an overall understanding person. It's just hard to give too much of a shit when you're drunk or stoned. I suppose that's why I find it so easy to enjoy comics that involve characters constantly butting heads about little things, big things, ugly things, sexy things, and pretty much every other kind of things. That's what makes for kick-ass stories. Sometimes those disagreements and divides make for some pretty chaotic stories, so much so that you need GPS and a Native American tracking guide to keep up. I'm at an advantage because I've been following these comics so closely that if you gave me some snow and got me drunk enough, I could paint out a detailed timeline with my piss. Not everyone has that kind of talent or that kind of attention span so at times, it's easy to get lost.
Therein lies the problem with tie-in issues. Since Avengers vs. X-men began, it's weaved it's slithery tentacles into every major ongoing for Avengers and X-men like the IRS in Willie Nelson's finances. For casual readers, you'll get more lost than a blind transvestite at a male strip club. I understand Marvel tries their best to make their books accessible to new and lapsed readers. I also understand they try their best make each issue fit together in a coherent story, tie-ins and all. Well like even the best lesbian porno, you can't have your pussy and eat it too. You have to sacrifice one for the other. Uncanny X-men and Wolverine and the X-men both took the plunge into the events of Avengers vs. X-men. Now it's X-men Legacy's turn.
For the most part, X-men Legacy has only loosely followed the events at the Jean Grey Institute as they're laid out in Wolverine and the X-men. It tends to follow it's own plot and highlight it's own set of characters, usually following Rogue and finding ways for her to fantasize about Magneto's wrinkly ball sack. The last brief arc brought Mimic into the mix. It was the last story before X-men Legacy was set to join the events of Avengers vs. X-men. Unlike Uncanny X-men and Wolverine and the X-men, it comes after a few issues so it's a bit late to the party. If you're following one issue to the next, you'll probably be left scratching your head and questioning the potency of the weed you bought. I'm here to tell you know that you shouldn't do either. X-men Legacy is still it's own book, but for Avengers vs. X-men it has to be more flexible than a Chinese contortionist.
The events of X-men Legacy #266 take place after the events of Avengers vs. X-men #3 and Wolverine and the X-men #10. If you don't want to get completely confused, you kind of have to read Wolverine and the X-men #3. I normally don't like it when reading an issue of one series requires that you read an issue of a completely different series, but given the circumstances and the scale of Avengers vs. X-men it's understandable. The important facts to gather from Wolverine and the X-men is the decision by some of the Jean Grey Institute's staff to go along with Cyclops and fight with him against the Avengers. This issue takes place during some stretch of time before that issue ends (and since time is so fucked up in comics, I won't even try to rant about it). Rogue is addressing the staff, letting them know that shit is going down between the Avengers and X-men and they're probably going to get caught in the crossfire. They all are given a decision to go with Cyclops or stay at the school. Only Rachel and Iceman go, as was shown in Wolverine and the X-men #10. The rest just figure they'll stay at the school, hope the world doesn't blow up, and listen to teenage kids complain. I guess teaching teenagers has a way of hardening people to the end of the world.
Rogue and the rest of the Jean Grey Institute staff do their best to pretend that the Phoenix is not on it's way to scorch the Earth. They continue teaching their class of students who probably have iphones and internet access, so they know what's going on. They know whatever bullshit algebra test they're being taught probably won't mean dick if the world is reduced to ashes, but like any dispassionate teacher that spends too much time working with snot-nosed teenagers the staff doesn't bat an eye. It's a significant exercise in ignorance is bliss, but ignorance has a shitty track record when the truth is practically thrust into the mix. In the middle of class, a team of Avengers consisting of Falcon, Moon Knight, and She Hulk show up at the steps of the institute. Even if the students aren't worried about the world being torched by the Phoenix Force, it still beats the shit out of algebra.
The students are told to stay inside while some of the institute staff members go out to greet their unwelcome guests. It's actually not quite as tense as it looks. Unlike Captain America in Avengers vs. X-men #1, these Avengers didn't show up with a fucking helicarrier at their back (possibly because Colossus destroyed it but that's besides the point). So their sincerity carries a bit more weight when they say they're not looking to pick a fight. Falcon calmly explains that even though the Jean Grey Institute took no part in the battle and took no sides, the Avengers are suspicious of them and want to keep an eye on them. It's like the CIA spying on a mosque that has done absolutely nothing, minus the illegal wiretapping. It gets pretty tense and there's some pretty blatant trash talking. Kitty Pryde tells them outright they're not welcome in the school, but they're welcome to stay back and count piles of dog shit outside the boundaries of the school if they want. The Avengers clearly don't like it, but they don't blindly pick a fight.
This is quite a shift from the events of Avengers vs. X-men or even the events of Wolverine and the X-men that this book play off of. It doesn't rush into a fight the way it did in Avengers vs. X-men, nor does it throw meaningless dialog into the mix like Wolverine and the X-men. Christos Gage does a great job of developing the tension here and he adds an element of drama when he shows the X-men's reluctant to pick a fight in front of their students. It doesn't just show a little heart. It shows the lingering difference between Cyclops's X-men and Wolverine's X-men.
While the two sides part without exchanging any bear-knuckle handshakes, Frenzy decides to linger a bit. Unlike the other X-men, she doesn't have a history of turning the other cheek. She used to be part of Magneto's crew of mutant terrorists. It wasn't until the power of Cyclops's penis pacified her that she gave the peaceful methods of the X-men a shot. That doesn't mean she's still okay with taking shit from the same heroes that used to want to lock her up. She essentially makes it clear that if they're going to watch them, then they're going to return the favor. If they cross a certain line, shit is going to go down. It further adds to the tension, but unlike the X-men Frenzy is okay with that.
Naturally the presence of big name superheroes looking for a reasons to bust up more mutants draws plenty of attention. While Rogue and the institute staff try to get class going again, Frenzy stays outside and continues her tirade of trash talk. Even Gambit tells her that just holding their ground in the institute is still asking for trouble. He suspects the Avengers are expecting to pick a fight. Frenzy certainly doesn't help this when she starts provoking Moon Knight, criticizing him for being the same thug she once was. It's the kind of trash talk you don't see in normal X-men that weren't once batting for the bad guys. It makes for far more engaging dialog than the shit that dragged on in Wolverine and the X-men. It becomes even more engaging when Moon Knight finally snaps and throws the first punch. That officially makes them the aggressors and now the X-men are the ones who have an excuse to respond.
Nothing rallies a team better than the mentality that they're being bullied. Since the Institute staff failed miserably at restoring order, the students at the Jean Grey Institute saw the whole incident play out. As far as they're concerned, Frenzy was just talking to Moon Knight about the whether when he decided to smack her around. As the battle erupts and Frenzy tries to defend herself, some of the students led by Hellion run out and attempt to back her up. It's not a fair fight by even the most retarded measures. These are students in ugly ass uniforms. They're taking on three seasoned Avengers. It's a fight that shouldn't last very long and it doesn't. One quick mega clap from She-Hulk and the three students are subdued and not in a very humane way either. In fact, she fucking injures them pretty bad. She say she didn't mean to, but She-Hulk is a fucking lawyer by trade. She of all people should know that the law is very clear when it comes to overpowering adults beating up on kids.
This makes for a very different kind of battle compared to what has been seen in other Avengers vs. X-men books. In the main story, the X-men were the ones striking the first blow. Cyclops was the one that stood his ground when Captain America came and demanded they turn over their mutant messiah. This time the Avengers are the ones that threw the first punch. They didn't have to make it a big spectacle, but then they had to go and beat up on the students who like most stupid teenagers will throw themselves into a conflict without thinking. It shows the Avengers as bullies in this instance, which makes for a very different battle.
That battle, unfortunately, doesn't get much time to unfold. When Rogue sees what She-Hulk did to the students, she ditches the whole keeping-the-peace bullshit. When someone roughs up her students, she roughs them up. So without giving She-Hulk a chance to explain herself, Rogue pulls her absorption trick and becomes muscular and green. Yet somehow she still looks incredibly hot. Maybe that's just because I pulled a groin muscle fucking a woman that was a part time body builder (amongst other things), but it's a great moment that begins the big fight between the Avengers and the Jean Grey Institute staff. The only problem is that's all it does. The comic ends before we can see much fighting. I get that cliffhangers are a part of the business, but when they feel this abrupt they're annoying as hell.
In my Wolverine and the X-men #10 review, I complained how it was mostly talk and very little action. I don't mind lots of dialog in a comic so long as it has depth. This issue had more action and a lot of talking, but both had a certain level of depth that made it engaging. Christos Gage actually tops Jason Aaron for once in setting up a conflict without being too basic or overly subtle. When the small contingent of the Avengers arrive at the Jean Grey Institute, it doesn't immediately erupt into mindless brawl. Gage actually builds towards it, having Frenzy flaunt that coarse personality that only Cyclops's penis was able to tame in Age of X. Eventually, that taunting turned to punches and after that first punch is thrown, there's no more need to build up. Asses need to be kicked and that's all there is to it.
This issue does a much better job of making the conflict more engaging. It's still a bit choppy at times. The biggest issue is how the story was set up. This issue enters the Avengers vs. X-men conflict long after it's already begun. The first few pages are basically spent reminding readers in a very vague sort of way what's happened. And while Rogue and Frenzy's moments are solid, the Avengers cast really isn't given all that much. They seem overlooked until one of them throws a punch. I know this is an X-men book and the X-men are going to get favor by default, but leaves the issue feeling somewhat imbalanced. In addition, it leaves the reader hanging way too much at the end. We only get to see the beginning of a fight and not a fight itself. While that does make for a nice cliffhanger, it also makes for an abrupt and frustrating end that may leave some readers banging their heads against the wall and/or nearby liquor bottles.
X-men Legacy has always been awesome in it's own unique style. It manages to maintain that style even as it works its way into Avengers vs. X-men, but by coming in this late it really doesn't leave the kind of impact one would hope. I get that Wolverine and the X-men and Uncanny X-men are more prominent titles, but that doesn't mean X-men Legacy can't contribute. Christos Gage does a good job of setting the stage in this issue. It just ends way too abruptly and doesn't feel complete enough. Therefore, I give X-men Legacy #266 a 4 out of 5. This issue has more than talking. It has the kind of trash talk that would get most NFL players fined and/or suspended. Plus, it has two hot women with green skin fighting. You can't get that shit anywhere else outside of a Tijuana donkey show. Nuff said!