Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wolverine and the X-men #13 - Alien Family Feud (of Awesome)

When I was 13, one of my cousins, let's call him Braindead McDipshit, thought it would be a good idea to bring paintball guns to a family reunion. Keep in mind that my family reunions usually consist of several coolers of beer, ten whole chickens, and no less than two calls to the fire department for when someone tries to deep fry said chickens. So as you can imagine, mixing booze with paintball guns turned out to be a very bad idea. Several trips to the emergency room and a few tainted chickens ensured that we wouldn't have another family reunion, at least until the lawsuit is settled. I bring this up because family affairs tend to be just as fucked up if not more so in comics. Big events like Avengers vs. X-men may not be the kind of family affairs that make for a good Sunday picnic, but the tension is all the same minus the booze.

Wolverine and the X-men has utilized some of those family elements more than most tie-ins. In Wolverine and the X-men #12, we saw Rachel Grey going behind her Phoenix-powered father's back when she confronted Hope Summers. Lies, deception, and half truths are practically the glue that hold families together. That and the occasional restraining order, but maybe that's just my cousin McDipshit. These lies are made all the more important when you consider the backdrop surrounding the current plot in Avengers vs. X-men. The Phoenix Five are ruling the world in ways that Kim Jong Ill only dreamed about, minus the prison work camps. Yet the Avengers are still a threat because they have Hope and Hope still has a connection to the Phoenix Force. It could have gotten ugly with Cyclops and Rachel because now that he has the Phoenix, he has the power to expose even the lies of a teenage girl. Unfortunately, he doesn't get a chance to use this great power because another family feud emerged.

A couple issues ago, Kid Gladiator and the massive ego he carries in his oversized scrotum was called back by his father, the non-kid Gladiator. The Shi'ar have a rather shady history with the Phoenix Force and by shady I mean the kind of bitterness that even paintball guns and booze can't match. But Kid Gladiator did what so many rebellious teenagers without regular access to internet porn often do. He disobeyed his father, flew back to Earth, and participated in the brawl between the Avengers and the X-men. Now a very angry father has returned and suddenly Kid Gladiator's access to internet porn among other things is in jeopardy. He's also not entirely pleased with the X-men for harboring the Phoenix Force, but at least he has something on which to vent his anger. It sure beats the hell out of being chased down the street at two in the morning with the father of a cute 17-year-old daughter trying to shoot you with a shotgun. Again, maybe that's just my cousin McDipshit.

Wolverine and the X-men #13 brings an alien family feud into the already heated conflict between the Avengers and the X-men. Hell, at this rate Jerry Springer may come out of retirement to do a show on these guys. Gladiator and the Shi'ar contingent of Mossad arrive to take on the Phoenix Five and retrieve Gladiator's son. The action is narrated at least in part by Warbird, complete with flashbacks about her early tests in the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. Apparently, the Shi'ar give the same tests to their aspiring assassins as they we do our mentally disturbed prison population. I guess it makes sense and makes for a pretty heated battle scene.

It's a battle between two forces powerful enough to cause a storm surge just by jerking off. The battles in Wolverine and the X-men have always been colorful in their own right. This one is no exception with Warbird showing that her skills is almost as unbelievable as whatever forces are keeping her breasts in that outfit she wears. She's actually able to stick a sword into a Phoenix powered Emma Frost and miss the silicone no less. Granted, for the Phoenix that's like shaking off a hang-nail, but it takes some alien style balls to attack the Phoenix like that let alone Emma Frost. But Gladiator makes it clear to Warbird that her job is to protect her son from the angry cosmic entities that like deep frying Shi'ar for the 4th of July.

This reminder leads to more flashbacks with Warbird and her history as a bad-ass Shi'ar killer with an awesome rack. It seems a little random to squeeze this shit in while a juicy Shi'ar vs. Phoenix battle is going on. You almost want to skip it, but Jason Aaron is trying to do something here that he hasn't done with Warbird yet in revealing her story. He even gives her a full name, Ava'dara Naganandini. It sounds like the name of a Dutch prostitute, but her life is described as pretty damn gritty. She grew up in the Shi'ar equivalent of Afghanistan, being part of a Clone Wars style program to weed out the best warriors. She literally came out of the womb killing and spent her early Shi'ar career killing the Han Solos of the Shi'ar. If the flashbacks are accurate, it's safe to say she was pretty damn good at it.

In between the flashbacks, Warbird employs those same skills to get to Kid Gladiator. Along the way she has to go through a few X-men. One of them is Iceman, who ends up getting smashed to pieces like a glass dildo in Bill O'Riley's asshole. But Warbird is a good sport about it. She actually commends Iceman for fighting alongside his fellow X-men loyally and bravely. She even offers to have sex with him if he can pull his ass together when all is said and done. So even though she's a cruel alien assassin, she's not without some form of mercy. I admit that if getting brutally maimed was the price I had to pay to fuck a hot alien chick like Warbird, I'd do it. Show me someone who claims they won't even consider it and I'll show you the biggest fucking liar since Ted Haggard's last speech on homosexuality.

The main focus of the battle remains on Gladiator, however. He's not just here to protect his son. He's here to rip the feathers off the cosmic chicken that is the Phoenix Force and deep fry it in a Shi'ar barbecue. This is the same force that gave the Shi'ar fits back during the original Phoenix Saga. He urges Cyclops to give the flaming space bird up. He basically tells him to suck it. So Gladiator decides to fight back, knowing full well that fighting a cosmic force like the Phoenix is akin to shitting upside down. All the while, Kid Gladiator is stuck watching and he knows his father is in for a shitty battle. It's up to Warbird to hold him back.

This leads to another flashback where we see that while Warbird emerged in some of the cruelest, roughest parts of the Shi'ar bowels, she does have a soft spot. In a standard Dick Cheny-esque battle against a bunch of Shi'ar thugs, Warbird finds an innocent alien child drawing after she finished slaughtering the kid's family. The kid is remarkably calm about it all. He just kept drawing while the guns were going off and his folks were dying. He asks Warbird to get it over with before he decides to start drawing dicks. But she doesn't. She shows a tiny bit of compassion for the kid.

It's a moment that's meant to add a bit of humanity to this confessed alien killer. While the meaning is well-intended, it doesn't exactly feel genuine. It's also revealed that Warbird liked to draw in her spare time as well. For some reason, this was an egregious sin for a Shi'ar killer. She might as well have dry humped Bin Laden's corpse. And seeing a kid draw was all it took to shake her. I get that this is an alien culture we're dealing with and maybe I'm just too human, but I can't really get too emotional about a killer being softened by fucking stick figures on paper. I want to, but the size of my balls and the booze in my system just won't allow me.

There's much more emotion in the ass-kicking Gladiator receives between the flashbacks. The rest of the X-men under Rachel's newfound badassery take care of the rest of the Shi'ar's forces. This allows the Phoenix Five to gang up on Gladiator. Even though Gladiator has demonstrated some ridiculous feats of strength throughout the history of the Marvel universe, he might as well be Betty White fighting Mike Tyson in this battle. The Phoenix Five beat his sorry ass to a pulp while the rest of the Shi'ar commandos watch on, presumably shitting themselves out of however many holes Shi'ar have. They don't even seem to break much of a sweat while doing it. They're the Phoenix Five. They need only put as much effort into beating Gladiator as we do lifting a TV remote.

All the while, Kid Gladiator watches on. He's understandably pissed and wants to go out and help his father, if for no other reason than to give him less reasons for grounding his ass for disobeying him. Warbird won't have it though. She stays true to her role, holding Kid Gladiator back while reflecting on a few more flashbacks. They don't reveal much aside from how she let that kid go and caught hell for it from her superiors. Then when she tried to draw again, she couldn't as if drawing was somehow a part of her innocence. It would have been more emotional if drawing as a metaphor for Tiger Woods's image before all those porn stars came forward. It ends up falling flat, not unlike Tiger's performance at the Masters this year. You want to feel for Warbird, but you're just too interested in seeing how much the Phoenix Force fucked up Gladiator.

In the end it's pretty fucked up. Gladiator's body is almost as wounded as his pride. The Phoenix Five leave without so much as a smirk. They don't apologize for alien assassins that come to their planet and fuck up their efforts to create a global utopia. But they leave him to ponder the mangled state of his ass. Warbird then flies Gladiator back to the Jean Grey Institute for treatment, but it's clear that the battle took an emotional toll. The reason why really isn't that clear since her flashbacks had as much to do with this battle as a quantum physics book in Paris Hilton's purse. I guess we're supposed to feel for her, but all I really feel is a need for another beer.

I really like and respect what Jason Aaron tried to do with this issue. If it were just pages upon pages of Shi'ar heavyweights exchanging blows with the Phoenix Five, it would have just been mindless violence. Not that I'm against that in comics, but it helps when there's more plot than than the Batman porn parody. Aaron attempted to add plot by exploring Warbird, a character who really hasn't been explored much since she arrived in the pages of Wolverine and the X-men. To this point, we've only known her as Kid Gladiator's bitchy body-guard that likes to wear outfits that force her breasts to break the laws of physics. The flashbacks in this comic do help explain what makes her tick, but it plays out in a way that's not as compelling as it could be.

The biggest problem in this issue is that Warbird's story really didn't fit into the overall plot surrounding Avengers vs. X-men. Unlike the plot with Frenzy in X-men Legacy, Warbird's story came off more as a bar bet where someone dared Jason Aaron to come up with a brutally gritty backstory for a character while finding some way to soften them up. I don't know how many drinks it took for Aaron to take up this bet, but I'm pretty sure he was left with head-crushing hangover the next morning. Warbird being from a rough part of town in the Shi'ar Empire is a bit basic and all those details just sounded gritty for the sake of being gritty. The part about her drawing really didn't have much impact. Even if drawing was akin to taking a shit on your boss's desk in the Shi'ar culture, Aaron never sufficiently conveys that sentiment. In addition, the flashbacks often distracted from the battle and it didn't seem to add to the drama of having Warbird hold Kid Gladiator back while his dad was being pummeled. While the intent is clear, it just doesn't come together as well as it could have.

The action is still top notch. Gladiator is one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe and he got his ass served to him with a side of fries by the Phoenix Five. It made for a very satisfying battle and one that was made all the more dramatic by Kid Gladiator's presence. It could have been better, but it was still awesome enough to warrant keeping it by the toilet the next time you come back from a binge at Taco Bell. I enjoyed this issue, but given the high bar Jason Aaron had set with previous tie-ins with Wolverine and the X-men I was still left feeling underwhelmed. The last issue made Rachel Grey more awesome than a free pizza and a bag of weed. This issue tried to do the same with Warbird, but failed. As such, I give Wolverine and the X-men #13 a 3.5 out of 5. It still has plenty of action and some decent drama, but it's lacking in certain vital functions. It's not unlike Elton John's dick at the Playboy Mansion in that sense. Next time I'll try to make sure I'm the one to make a bar bet with Jason Aaron. At least with me, the worst he'll ever do is take a shit Joe Quesada's car. Nuff said!


  1. As much as I like the character of Warbird, I've always wished that her role would have been filled by former Excalibur member, Cerise. I just think she would have made more sense: she has past ties with the X-Men and with staff members of the Jean Grey School (in her former Excalibur teammates Kitty Pryde and Rachel Grey) and she committed crimes against the Empire which her being in the service of Lilandra. After Lilandra's death, Gladiator could have assigned her to serve as Kubark's bodyguard due to her past experience with the X-Men.

  2. I know what you mean, but I think the reason Aaron didn't go that route was because he wanted someone younger and lesser established like Kid Gladiator for the Jean Grey Institute. A large part of the appeal of Wolverine and the X-men is the use of younger characters. I think the new Warbird had potential, but it was poorly explored here.


  3. I wonder where thing's will go for ava from here on out