Sunday, June 17, 2012
X-men #30 - Awesome Gives Us Wood
Every new writer that comes onto an X-book is like an amateur boxer that suddenly gets thrust into the ring with a 20-year-old Mike Tyson fresh off snorting blow from the tail of his pet tiger. As crazy as it may seem, there are a shit ton of other comic books out there. Most don't get even a fraction of the press your typical X-book gets. So writers damn well better know that before coming in because if they take this shit lightly, they will be the subject of endless hate mail and voodoo hexes. Just ask Chuck Austin and Brett Ratner if you don't believe me. However, I try to be more optimistic with new writers. They can just as easily bring some awesome ideas to the table as they can the ability to shit all over such ideas. Brian Wood is someone who has some light experience with the X-books, namely in the mini-series Alpha and Omega. It wasn't a series that got a lot of buzz. Minis that center around Quentin Quere mind-fucking people have their limits. But now Wood has a chance to do something bigger with adjectiveless X-men, a very open series from which Victor Gischler just capped off his run.
Wood is entering a series that has been on the uptick lately. After being more forgettable than Paris Hilton's music career for a while, the series has really grown since X-men Regensis. The book still has the theme of linking the X-men up with the larger Marvel Universe. It also covers a group of X-men tasked with addressing security threats to Utopia. It has some pretty heavy hitters with Storm, Warpath, Domino, and Psylocke. At the end of Gischler's run, they added another in Pixie. Wait...Pixie? That's not the name of a heavy hitter! That's a codeword you use with your dealer when you're trying to score some fresh blow! Pixie is a pink-haired, happy-go-lucky teenage Welsh girl who looks like someone who should be whining about Gucci purses, sexting, and Justin Bieber. Hopefully not in that order though. Yet over the past few years, she's become the Susan Boyle of the X-men. No one expected her to be great, yet she's taken on many prominent roles with the team and managed them quite well. If you can call helping contain a volatile situation with the Skrulls that she fucked up five times before she fixed managing that is.
This is what Brian Wood has to work with as he begins his run with X-men #30. Like every new X-men arc, there has to be a new crisis. This one comes in the form of a man named David Michael Gray. Notice how his last name is carefully spelled G-R-A-Y to avoid unnecessary connotations with that other character with a similar last name. At least this one doesn't have red hair and green eyes. He's just the kind of guy you would share blow with in the bathroom of a pub during halftime on a football game. He's also the kind of guy that breaks into a secure Russian bio-weapons lab, shoots a co-worker, and steals some shit will probably earn most terrorist the prison bitch suite at Guantanamo Bay.
For the heroes in this story, Wood picks up right where Victor Gischler left off in showing Pixie flex her pixie wings as the new token teenage girl that's still tripping over her own hormones. She doesn't have Jubilee's bloodlust, but she's flashy in her own right. Wood has her show off her flight and teleportation skills, which definitely hope to be more useful than Jubilee's fangs. She's still a bit clumsy, but she manages to make it back to Storm and the security team as they're flying along in one of the X-men's many jets. Where they get these jets is beyond me. They must be offered in bulk at Costco in the Marvel universe or something. Whatever their source, Pixie's arrival gets the story going and helps set up the overall premise that Pixie is still a teenager and might as well be a cow looking at an oncoming train.
Whatever bullshit that disgruntled bio-terrorist pulled, it appears to be manifesting itself in the cozy little neighborhood of Grozy in Russia. Did I say cozy? It's Vladamir Putin's Russia. Cozy by Russian standards is simply not having frost bite on your balls. It's a pretty standard crisis. The locals are reporting some mutant monster on the loose, which in Russia could be the same as saying Lady Gaga's tour bus is driving through. But the X-men plan to investigate anyways. If they can't beat up a monster, they can at least catch an awesome concert full of Gaga's fellow monster. It would be the one place where they would blend in like a hooker at Charlie Sheen's house.
Sadly, it never turns out to be a concert. It always turns out to be a monster. A real monster that is. Taking full advantage of having at teleporter on their team, the security team shows up in Grozy and takes on your standard monster that looks like a cross between a werewolf, Bigfoot, and pile of cow shit. It's nothing too crazy and the X-men handle it pretty quickly. And by quickly I mean Colossus delivers one punch and the thing pretty much disintegrates. Now I know Colossus can hit hard with his Juggernaut powers, but that makes for a rather dull fight. We don't even get to see the look on the creature's face when it's brain is turned to mush. While I'm tempted to take a few shots of tequila and start ranting, Wood does offer a touch of mystery behind this overly dull battle. The creature appeared to disintegrate by design. It might as well have been a trick to just wake the X-men up early on their day to sleep in. But in the same way it's never a Lady Gaga concert, it's never just an evil biologist with too much free time and no porn subscription.
The team gathers a sample and mulls over their next move. The most logical course of action is to inform Cyclops so he can get the X-men's team of personal scientists on the case. They're probably in need of a break from their latest efforts to put a camera in Emma Frost's panties anyways. However, Storm shows a little bravado that she hasn't shown since Marvel forcibly married her off to Black Panther. She decides to not inform Cyclops and investigate this on her own. All I can say is, fuck yeah sister! You don't have to go along with a guy just because he's fucking Emma Frost.
I had to pull back and wipe some tears from my eyes when I read this because it's been a while since I've seen that look in Storm's eye where she could neuter a man with just her gaze. There was actually a time when Storm was a tough, hard-nosed co-leader of the X-men that would stare down both Cyclops and Wolverine and win. That hasn't happened much since Marvel married her to Black Panther. She's just been the queen that's too good to get her hands dirty or break a nail. It's really fucked up her iconic character and I couldn't be happier that Wood is fucking back. If your a Storm fan, that alone makes this issue worth it's weight in Vibranium.
Following that gut instinct that probably led to her impromtu marriage, Storm enlists Pixie to take her to a remote are where Cyclops can't eavesdrop. That or she just waits until his face is buried in Emma Frost's snatch. Once again, Pixie looks like a deer in the headlights. She's basically just the designated driver as Storm gives the sample she found to nameless researcher from a group called Mutants Sans Frontiers. She looks like the nerdy science girl that never got to date the star quarterback, but may have dry humped his brother at one point. She claims she just wants to help and even treats Pixie like a celebrity hero. In Marvel comics, that's usually a sign that someone will later point a death ray between your eyes. But who knows? Maybe this girl is sincere. It wouldn't be the first time a woman that looked like a science nerd who specialized in prostate massages surprised me.
After parting with the sample, Storm has a quick video chat with Cyclops. If you're a Cyclops-hater, you'll probably jerk off to this because Storm flat out lies to him about what the security team has found. She also gets into an argument with him about having leeway with her team. By leeway that's basically code for, "Stay the fuck out of my way and to back to fucking your blonde bimbo girlfriend." She's not wrong to want some flexibility. She probably isn't getting that shit from her king husband. It makes for a tense situation, but Cyclops being the understanding ass that he is allows her to work. That or Emma is naked in the background. It's hard to tell.
Before the test results come in, however, another monster has already emerged in the North Sea. This one is nowhere near as bland as the first monster. In fact, this one is many times bigger and looks like it could be an extra in an anime porn. Thankfully, the X-men don't wear school girl uniforms (the Stepford Cuckoos notwithstanding) so their assholes are probably safe. Colossus goes in for another quick strike, but unlike the previous monster this one doesn't just dissolve like Senator Larry Craig's credibility on gay issues. It promises to require a far more valiant effort from the X-men. Suddenly, a Lady Gaga concert sounds that much more appealing. It doesn't offer further insight into the mysteries that Wood has established, but it does set the next issue up nicely for a good monster mash. And if that's not a solid way to end your first issue of X-men, then I'll actually attend an AA meeting.
I imagine that writing your first issue for a major comic book series is like hiring your first high class hooker. You put so many resources into it and you're going to be your own harshest critic if you fuck it up. I'm not sure how much experience Brian Wood has with hookers, but if he handles them the same way he handles his first issue of X-men I imagine he gets either a discount or a free blowjob. With his first issue, he sets up a rather sensitive situation for the X-men's security team. Since X-men Regenesis, such a situation hasn't been explored. Why should readers assume that Storm is just going to go along with Cyclops's agenda? She's fucking queen of Wakanda for crying out loud. She doesn't have to blindly obey the guy sticking it to Emma Frost. This in addition to a rather unusual brand of monster threats offers plenty of intrigue even if it's not overly mind-blowing.
If there is an issue that shows in this comic, it's that you can tell it is the first issue of a new writer. It's a different style compared to Victor Gischler. It's not bad, but it is a bit cumbersome in some areas. The way that first monster dissolved was poorly explored as was the so-called enthusiast Storm hired to analyze the sample she gathered. There were definitely plenty of elements to work with here. They just weren't fleshed out as well as they could have been. At least Wood made the transition fairly smooth. He took the events of Gischler's run and carried it over into his, showing that Pixie is still adjusting to her new role and going through the awkward growing pains that remind us all of our first gym class only with less monsters.
The adjectiveless X-men series may be lagging behind the events of Avengers vs. X-men, but it still has it's place in the X-books. That place may change depending on how Avengers vs. X-men turns out, but for now there are still stories to be explored and Brian Wood sets up something interesting here with the X-men's security team. In this series you start to get the sense that this is a unique X-men team and they're going to follow their own agenda that's different from the other X-books. You don't get too many hints of what's to come, but it's well-organized and well-developed. It definitely has the potential to be awesome and doesn't underwhelm even if it does understate at times. For that, I give X-men #30 a 3.5 out of 5. Not bad for your first issue, Mr. Wood! Keep giving us awesome comics and fans will soon be chanting "We got Wood! We got Wood!" You may also hear that at a gay pride parade, but I think the message is still the same. Nuff said!