Sunday, June 24, 2012
Astonishing X-men #51 - A Gay Affair (of Awesome)
What is it that makes someone want to marry someone else? Is it love? Is it sex? Is it the desire to get on their insurance plan? I've often wondered this as the closest I've ever come to getting married was proposing to my drug dealer when I was low on blow for Mardi Gras. I suppose I can't understand the kind of commitment that doesn't involve earning a hand-written thank you letter from Mexican drug lords. But for reasons that only show that religious people have too much free time on their hands, marriage is a big issue. In particular, the notion of two men getting married just makes people who worship magic sky pixies makes them feel all dirty inside. I say fuck those assholes (figuratively speaking) and let the man-love flow freely. In the pages of Astonishing X-men, there's been plenty of man-love to go around.
Astonishing X-men #50 actually gained national news when Northstar, the X-men's resident elf-eared homosexual, proposed to his longtime boyfriend, Kyle. This proposal comes after a rather messy attempt to become more serious by moving in together. Anyone who has ever had to move in with anybody without the aid of powerful muscle relaxers know that shit is stressful. For the past two issues, Marjoie Liu has been piling on the drama between these two and it eventually culminated with Northstar proposing. It was certainly no Disney moment (and I'm pretty sure Disney refrains from showing gay characters in their movies, although I have my suspicions about the 7 dwarfs). However, it coincided with developing plot involving mind-control, the Marauders, and guys armed with rocket launchers. In other words, it's basically your typical Thursday in the Marvel universe.
Now the marriage issue is something that Marvel has been pushing and low and behold, people are responding. There are actually gay weddings that are going to be performed in accord with this issue. Never mind the fact that Marvel's history with married characters is more fucked than every episode of Jerry Springer. Just ask Peter Parker about his marriage. Oh wait...bad example. Selling your marriage to the devil is too much even for Springer. But at a time when this country's religious nut jobs are trying desperately to revert mankind back to an era where gays were target practice, women were cattle, and minorities were slaves I applaud Marvel for celebrating love and pissing off these religious dick holes. The way I see it, if Rick Santorum and Glenn Beck burst out crying from this comic, I'll see it as an epic win.
At the end of the last issue, Northstar was tasked with confronting his mind-controlled boy toy before he gave himself the Kurt Cobain headache cure. It was a tense moment that ended on a rather tense cliffhanger. Astonishing X-men #51 begins by pretty much skipping ahead of all that shit and skipping ahead of the whole issue of Kyle rejecting Northstar's proposal as well. I can't remember the last time the beginning of a comic required a spoiler warning on the first page, but I guess with the massive public interest Marvel raised in promoting this wedding it's not too big of a shock. It starts with Northstar on his wedding day, making the final preparations before he becomes a married man and a nightmare to Christians everywhere. Iceman comes by to let him know it's time. This scene alone crushes the souls of all the die-hard Northstar/Iceman shippers. Surprisingly, there is a massive amount of gay fanfiction porn for these two. If you're among them, I suggest you avoid this comic because it'll kill your will to live.
But the events of the previous issue weren't completely forgotten. While it's all smiles and pre-wedding jitters to begin with, the plot from the previous issue wasn't forgotten for too long. Marjorie Liu picks up at that tense moment when Northstar was staring down a gun behind held by a mind-controlled Kyle. He manages to get it away from him and get grazed with a bullet in the process. This all comes after Northstar had to fight his way through the a bunch of other mind-controlled X-men. But even the X-men can't keep a gay man from his lover boy. They might as well try to keep a fat kid away from a chocolate covered hot dog...okay, bad example.
The source of all this mind fucking hasn't been revealed yet, but at the end of the last issue Karma had the rotten luck of being the only gay character Marvel will allow to get overly fucked in a comic. She was taken over by the same mysterious force that took over the Marauders in an earlier issue. Northstar managed to rough her up in a way that won't jeopardize his membership with the log cabin republicans, which allows her to reassert some form of control over herself and subsequently freeing Kyle in the process. While Northstar reconnects with his boy toy, Karma shows she's still in a world of pain. However, she's still under the thumb of whatever mysterious force that was hinted at being a hot brunette woman in the last issue. Unfortunately, we don't get to see her again. This is a comic centered around a gay wedding so for once a nice rack and a vagina gets you nowhere.
This is pretty much it for the big struggle to free the X-men from mind control. It wasn't much of a struggle. Hell, it was remarkably light for the melodrama, which is pretty surprising given how Marjorie Liu loves to pour melodrama on a story in the same I like to pour whiskey in my coffee. Northstar saves Kyle and confronts Karma, but that's about it. None of the other X-men play a part. There's no struggle. It's essentially glossed over, most likely as a ways to get to the wedding. I know that's the big draw for this comic, but a little extra material here really would've helped. Maybe it's just because my luck with women has left me with scars and alimony that I'm still repaying, but rushing to get to the wedding just doesn't make for a good story.
Not only is the battle with Karma glossed over, but the drama between Kyle and Northstar isn't too heavy either. There's still tender moment between the two after they get back to the Jean Grey Institute. Kyle's ability to avoid shooting his lover boy was definitely a testament to the power, regardless of which body parts it involves. So after they have a tender reunion, Kyle (who rejected Northstar's initial proposal mind you) changes his mind and says yes. Apparently, that's all it takes for a man to change his mind. He just has to be mind controlled into thinking he's going to kill you. It sounds unreasonable, but given the way marriage is these days it's probably necessary for some people.
While tender, this moment was still a far cry from the detail Marjorie Liu put into earlier scenes between these two. It's a big fucking deal, someone changing their mind about a marriage proposal. I've seen the cops called as a result of arguing over marriage and that was just neighbor/pot dealer. A larger discussion would have been nice, but it really wasn't fleshed out and that's a shame because regardless of how you feel about gay love there just isn't enough romance in comics these days. Not when marriages die or are sold to the devil.
We finally return to the present from which this comic started. The spoilers are over and it's all about the wedding bells now. There's not much action or drama. There are just characters like Rogue, Sasquatch, and Kyles parents showing up. It helps build the scale of this marriage. It's not some quickie in Las Vegas done on a whim when you've had too much to drink and the stripper that's dry humping you is in need of a green card. It's basically treated like a normal wedding and not a gay wedding. In some sense that shows just how far Marvel is willing to take it, not playing up the gay aspect. Shit like that has to make Glenn Beck cry his eyes out.
Like any other wedding, it's also a family affair albeit with less bar fights. Northstar's sister, Aurora, shows up to wish him well. They even go on a quick flight and she presents to him a little wedding gift from his Alpha Flight days. It's another nice moment that takes the place of the action that usually fills an Astonishing X-men comic. Again, this isn't a bad thing considering how this issue was billed as a wedding issue and not a brawl. I'm sure Marvel is saving that for their first trip to marriage counseling, but hopefully that's a long ways off.
The ceremony begins and it seems the entire Jean Grey Institute has turned out to take part in the festivities. This is probably the one wedding that the Westboro Baptist Church wouldn't dare picket. How could they harass an affair that involves those with superpowers that can only make them wish their gay-bashing god was real outside their twisted imaginations. Members of Alpha Flight are present. Jubilee and X-23 show up. Havok and Storm even show up. No one from Utopia is there however. Given Wolverine's hatred of Cyclops, I'm assuming he "lost" their invitations. But I guess that's another story this issue glossed over.
The big moment is still very fulfilling. If you're a gay bashing bigot, it'll make you cringe. If you have any appreciation for love, it'll make you smile. So I guess it's win-win. There's no exchange of vows like there were with Cyclops and Jean Grey's wedding. Given how that ended with one of them dying, Northstar and Kyle probably prefer to wing it their own way. It would have been nice if some sentimental words were exchanged, but again it's also glossed over. In the end actions speak louder as they so often do and the ceremony culminates in a big kiss. And it happened without shit blowing up or Christian Conservatives staging a protest. It's as smooth a wedding as you could hope for in the Marvel universe.
Well, I suppose it's all relative because Marjorie Liu didn't completely forget about the plot with Karma. After Wolverine tried yet again to bone a married women with Storm, he slipped away for a covert drink. In doing so he met up with Karma, who is still under the influence and I'm not talking about the way that would get the Olson twins arrested. The wedding may have been successful, but their mission was not and that means Karma is able to take over Wolverine. And this a guy that's already comfortable hitting on married women. So he's the perfect guy to fuck up a wedding without inviting my Aunt Scrotumcrusher to the ceremony.
In terms of weddings, this one went over much better than the last wedding I attended. Hell, this one didn't have anyone's cousin get drunk off champagne and fuck one of the bridesmaids over a punch bowl. In fact, having it end with someone being turned down by a married woman and descending into a homicidal rage is actually a proud family tradition. So the last part of this comic brought a tear to my eye as I recalled my uncle's last wedding. He and his third wife couldn't be happier now. I hope Northstar and Kyle share that happiness. Their wedding here was wonderfully done. But for the comic as a whole, I'm afraid I can't share the same festive spirit.
Now I get that the premise of this comic was billed to be the big wedding. Marvel made sure the wedding dominated this issue because that's how they played it. However, it fit poorly into the overall story. The plot with a mysterious mind-controlling enemy was almost lost in the midst of the wedding. I say almost because it was thrown into the mix at the end. What's going on with Karma is clearly not over yet and the events that have been building since the first issue of this arc haven't been resolved. However, the two plots just weren't blended as well as they could have been. Also, there wasn't nearly as much of an interplay between Kyle and Northstar as there was in previous issues. Kyle just had a change of heart and said yes. There was no drama building up or no reflection of what they had overcome. It was just thrust ahead so they could get to the ceremony. Even with a comic that was giant sized, it felt rushed and that's a shame because this comic did plenty of things right beyond the wedding. It just didn't do them in conjunction with the rest of the story.
Astonishing X-men #51 is an important comic for reasons that go beyond the story. This is a time where gay marriage is a big issue and the loveless, joyless, assholes who use Bronze Age mythology to justify their bigotry are fighting tooth and nail like a real life Lex Luthor to stop it. Comics like this essentially give the big middle finger to assholes like that, as well they should. However, the story in this comic simply didn't fit together as well as it could have. Compared to how well-crafted Marjorie Liu's other stories have been, it was disappointing. That's why I can only give Astonishing X-men #51 a 2.5 out of 5. I can't give it extra points for sticking it to the Michelle Bachmann's and Rick Santorum's of the world. I can only grade it based on the content. But I understand the importance of this issue and no one else should discount it. We should all take a moment to cherish our inner gay and fantasize about making Pat Robertson cry. Celebrate love, people! Celebrate straight love, gay love, all love! Fuck Rick Santorum! May the marriage of Kyle and Northstar succeed until the day they die or the day they make a deal with Mephisto, whichever comes first. Nuff said!