Saturday, July 21, 2012
Uncanny X-men #16 - Victorian Era Awesome
I often look back at the Victorian era with mixed emotions. Sure, they were the most uptight and repressed culture since Christine O'Donnell's bid for Congress. But if you actually look into these folks, you'll find that while they were repressed publicly, privately they were more perverted than an pervert in a panty factory. They wrote massive amounts of porn, set new standards in sadomasochistic fetishes, and came up with exceedingly inventive ways to control their junk less they abuse it outside the proper S&M dungeon. For that reason and many others, I'm glad that Sinister used this era as a model with which to build his secret underground kingdom. We haven't seen the S&M dungeons, but if he's made a true representation of 19th century England I can only assume they're hidden next to the stores that sell chastity belts.
You would think that a guy who is also his own species that creates his own little slice of the past in an underground cavern would be pretty fucking twisted. And you would be right without even having to take a bong hit. But for Sinister, twisted and tact are like peanut butter and jelly. They go so well together, but when you deep fry it you feel like you're biting into a slice of heaven (I just bought a deep fryer by the way and I'm still finding new ways to use it). The deep fryer in this instance is the Celestial technology that he acquired in the first major arc of Uncanny X-men after the relaunch. In the pages of Avengers vs. X-men, he's put that technology to use powering his Sinister version of London. However, now he has to use it in a slightly more pragmatic way.
Uncanny X-men #15 had the Phoenix Five take a quick break from pwning the Avengers to take on another threat that could potentially corrupt Hope and the Phoenix. Sinister already has a sordid history of sticking his dick in Phoenix plots. He created Madelyne Pryor and laughed his ass off when Cyclops was gullible enough to marry her. He also was the first to tell Hope about the Phoenix Force. So they know he's a threat and thanks to the Phoenix, the Phoenix Five look to neutralize him before he can wave that sinister dick of his in their faces any further.
Uncanny X-men #16 has the Phoenix Five receiving a warm welcome from Sinister. By warm I mean armed to the teeth with Celestial style weaponry. It's the kind of weaponry the Church of Scientology probably wishes they had when they're not trying to subversively destroy pharmaceutical companies. It makes for the kind of flashy battles that we've come to expect in Avengers vs. X-men, but this time it happens in a hidden underground cavern of Victorian style England and the targets are all creepy, pasty faced psychopaths. It means the Phoenix Five can afford to be mindlessly violent is what I'm saying.
The Phoenix Five's strategy is simple. Since Sinister is his own species, they need to attack his little tribute to the second most repressive era in modern history after Rick Santorum's presidential bid to completely neutralize him. They take to that strategy with their full Phoenix powers with the kind of enthusiasm you would expect, but Sinister remains as calm as Tom Brady on Valium. While his city is being attacked, he's casually dining with some Madelyne Pryor clones while enjoying a fancy feast that probably features water that's $50 a glass. Madelyne expresses some mild concern, but Sinister shows that he not only has a plan. He has a plan designed to make the X-men shit their pants.
Part of his army included clones of his Marauders. Sinister has a long history of using clones so it stands to reason that he would clone more than just cannon fodder for his Celestial powered weapons. How about cloning something bigger, badder, and shocking enough to make the assholes of cosmic beings clench? That's when we find out that Sinister didn't just build his castle in some dank cavern. He cloned Karoka, as in the fucking living island of Karoka that holds such a special place in the annuls of X-men lore. You can never accuse Sinister of doing anything half-assed. Even the Phoenix Five admit that they're surprised by this shit. The Avengers could learn a thing or two from Sinister, provided they cast aside little things like ethics and sanity. But then again, you can't argue with the results. Just look at the sheer ballsiness of his castle and your colon should tell you all you need to hear.
The surprise of Sinister's castle being built on the back of a living island only offered a prelude of things to come. The Phoenix Five try to flex their Phoenix powers with Colossus using it to grow like the monsters in those old Power Range cartoons. It seems like a good strategy until Sinister unleashes a wave of Gambit clones, each charged up in a way that makes them a walking suicide bomber. It seems like a waste of a perfectly good Cajun, but it effectively does to Colossus what pouring a batch of fire ants onto your roommate's bed does. It leaves him annoyed, pained, and threatening to cut your nuts off with a butter knife. Okay, that was just my ex-roommate.
Gambit isn't the only one Sinister took the time to clone into an army either. To take down Namor, he unleashes hoards of Cannonballs (the mutant and not the spherical thing you chuck at bowling pins and/or windshields of people you don't like). Like the exploding Gambits, they serve to annoy and frustrate Namor. He handles it somewhat better than Colossus, but even his exceedingly bloated ego can only handle so much. Seeing as how Sinister went through the trouble to clone so many mutants and build his castle on the back of a living island, you have to assume this isn't just because he wants to record it and post it to youtube to compete with cats and nut shots.
Even Emma isn't immune from Sinister's madness. He actually unleashes waves of killer cows at her. No, that's not a metaphor for a weapon powered by the Octomom's baby fat. Sinister actually used exploding cows to attack Emma Frost. For a woman that probably prides herself on wearing underwear that costs more than a car, that's pretty damaging. This attack leads the Phoenix Five to actually look like they're struggling for the first time since they got their Phoenix powers. Magik even suggests they pull back before Sinister throws exploding sheep at them next. But then she, Emma, and Colossus are hit with some mysterious blast that causes them to disappear. And by mysterious I mean fucking confusing because it's almost as if they disappear off-panel. I expect that kind of shit in an Ultimate comic written by Jeph Loeb, but not an issue of Uncanny X-men written by Kieron Gillen.
Now this battle is a major shift because it's the first time the Phoenix Five have faced a villain like Sinister. It's also the first time they've actually struggled to contain a threat. I've seen how some fanboys love to bitch and moan on message boards about how the Phoenix Five are too powerful. These are the same fanboys that probably bitch and moan about Wonder Woman wearing pants too, but now they have to admit for once that their bitching has been addressed because they're taking on a villain that has the resources and bravado to take on the Phoenix Five. It makes for a battle of a very different yet equally great awesome compared to the ones they've had with the Avengers.
But as nice as it is to see the battle against Sinister give the Phoenix Five a run for their money, the action gets a bit choppy. The other members of the Phoenix Five just disappear and not much explanation or hints are given as to the source. You assume there is one, but there's really not much to go on aside from maybe they had to go take a cosmic shit or something. It allows Sinister to unleash some extra Celestial firepower to down Cyclops. And since humbling him in front of his Phoenix-powered buddies isn't emasculating enough, he has to bring in an army of his ex-wives clones. You would almost rather go skinny dipping in a pond full of those fish with a taste for human testicles. It's implied that they're the source of the disappearances, but again it's really hard to tell with or without weed.
The battle between Sinister and the Phoenix Five has now devolved into a state between a Mitt Romney speech and a Jerry Springer rerun. The Phoenix Five have been humbled and even they have to admit that they could use a hand against someone who likes to throw ex-wives into a war. I'm pretty sure that's on par with genocide under the Geneva Convention, but I doubt Sinister gives a shit. Luckily, the Phoenix Five hasn't alienated all their teammates with their world-shaping utopia policy. Magneto, Storm, Danger, and Psylocke got bored waiting around on the surface and raiding Wolverine's old liquor cabinet. They show up at the end of the issue seeing that the battle against Sinister has become too fucked up for even a cosmic force to handle. So they'll need either help from the rest of the Extinction Team or a cosmic sized dildo to help unfuck this battle whichever comes first. Personally, I was looking forward to the cosmic sized dildo.
For most of Avengers vs. X-men, the Phoenix Five have faced all kinds of threats. Most of them involve being careful because the threats they were facing involved friends and allies. Well there are no allies here. The Phoenix Five could afford to exercise all its depraved cosmic fetishes of death, destruction, and bondage it wanted on Sinister. Because like a sadomasochist with a self-emoliation compunction, he can take it. Yet despite having the power to unleash this cosmic wrath, Sinister still found a way to fuck with them. What sounded like a lopsided battle became lopsided in the opposite way you imagined. You almost forgot that Sinister is the same crafty son-of-a-bitch that hot wired a Celestial. Why shouldn't he be able to measure up against the Phoenix Five.
The struggle of this battle was the real highlight of the issue. However, it was a bit choppy at times towards the end. It really isn't clear why or how Emma and Namor just flat out disappeared. It wasn't clear why Cyclops started panicking. And while it was nice to see Magneto, Danger, Storm, and Psylocke show up in a limited role, nothing was done with Unit sub-plot and nothing really added any drama to them being left out. That didn't mean this issue wasn't awesome. You can't have an issue that involves exploding cows and walking castles that isn't awesome on at least ten different levels. It's an issue that really started strong, but just became more incoherent than a sorority girl at a frat party after a few too many shots.
Kieron Gillen has done more than any writer since Chris Claremont to make Sinister a compelling and disturbing villain again. He's the kind of villain that will give you nightmares, but at the same time he's the kind of guy you want to have a beer with if for no other reason than to see if the beer turns to blood. The biggest accomplishment of this issue was that he finally gave the Phoenix Five a real run for their money with Sinister. That's something event he mighty Avengers couldn't accomplish. For that, Uncanny X-men #16 gets a 4.5 out of 5. The Phoenix Five have been humbled and smothered in cows blood. They now have to prove they can pull a Carrie on Sinister and wipe that creepy grin off his face. But hopefully, they save some of those Madelyne Pryor clones. Because if there's one thing the Marvel Universe has shown over the years, it's that you can never have enough hot redheads with a leather fetish. Nuff said!